Stephen Strasburg’s first live BP session of the spring, and his first since the 33-year-old starter underwent surgery for neurogenic thoracic outlet syndrome last summer, drew a crowd in West Palm Beach, FL’s FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches on Tuesday, but as Washington Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez told reporters in his daily press availability later in the afternoon, Josiah Gray also threw, though with much less fanfare.
“Stephen, as you know, he brings a crowd,” Martinez joked, “… and so when they saw him walking out, and they saw him in the bullpen, people are going to tend to watch, so it was good. On the other side we had Josiah throwing, and he threw the ball exceptionally well, which I was excited about. He threw 29 pitches, 2 out of 3 first pitches were strikes, which was really exciting. So that was good, he had a good day.”
Gray, who turned 24 in December, is, of course, one of four prospects acquired from the LA Dodgers in the deal which sent Max Scherzer and Trea Turner to Los Angeles last July 30th.
Josiah Gray, Nasty 85mph Slider. pic.twitter.com/f3sl0oBhal— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) October 2, 2021
In 12 starts and 62 2⁄3 IP for the Nationals late last season, Gray put up a 5.31 ERA, a 5.71 FIP, 28 walks (4.02 BB/9), 63 Ks (9.05 K/9), and a .238/.322/.489 line against. It was a bit of an up-and-down run, but it did provide a glimpse of the promise he brings.
Martinez said on Monday, before Gray’s initial live BP of the spring, that he wanted to see the right-hander take the next step after he was limited somewhat by an injury (shoulder impingement) while he was still in the Dodgers’ organization last summer.
“For Gray, one, the biggest thing for him is to have a good healthy start and stay healthy,” Martinez said. “And he learned a lot about what he needs to do as far as pitch ability, so I’m looking forward to watching him come out here again this spring and see where he’s at.”
Having seen Gray throw is first live BP this week, Martinez said he came away impressed.
“I thought Josiah did really well,” the Nats’ skipper said. “I think he learned a lot about himself, and we learned a lot about him, what he can do. We talked about some of his pitch usages coming into Spring Training, and he worked a lot on different things, and like I said, I watched him throw today, and I made sure [new bullpen coach] Ricky Bones, who doesn’t know him like we do, watched him to see what his thoughts were, and he thought [Gray’s] stuff was electric already. He worked a lot on his changeup, he worked a lot on throwing first-pitch curveball strikes, slider strikes, so it was good, it was good for him, and he worked hard this winter. And I talked to him at the end of the year about coming back a little stronger, being able to pitch count-wise, being able to go deeper into games.
“Last year we took care of him, but this year he’s healthy, so sky is the limit for him, we’re going to let him go and see what he does, but he looked really, really good today.”
It was a relatively brief outing, but even in the short burst, he provided another glimpse of what the Nationals saw when they scouted him with the Dodgers.
“Josiah threw 29 pitches today, he could have obviously thrown more, but I wanted to make sure that these guys got out there and got on the mound,” Martinez explained. “We haven’t been able to communicate with them at all until the lockout was over, so for now we kind of want to just keep putting eyes on them and see where they’re at. Josiah, he did exactly what he was supposed to do, he looks good. His next outing he might get 40 pitches.”