clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Washington Nationals’ Josiah Gray continues build towards Opening Day…

Josiah Gray impressed last night in his second start of the spring…

MLB: MAR 19 Spring Training - Mets at Nationals Photo by Doug Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Josiah Gray gave up four runs on three homers in the first six at-bats of his 2022 Grapefruit League debut last weekend, but retired the final three batters he faced, in what would end up being a 1 23-inning outing for the 24-year-old right-hander.

Gray talked after the start in West Palm Beach, FL about moving on from the rough first and staying focused on getting his work in when he retook the mound.

“Go back out there, continue to pound the zone, get guys out, feel like I’m progressing in terms of my next up — like they like to call it — and then go on from there,” Gray said, as quoted by writer Jessica Camerato after the start.

His manager, fifth-year skipper Davey Martinez, said while Gray, obviously, missed location on the home run pitches, overall he liked what he saw from the Nationals’ righty, who came to Washington, D.C. as a part of the return in the deal which sent Max Scherzer and Trea Turner to LA at last July’s trade deadline.

“He threw the ball well,” Martinez added.

“The ball was coming out — it was just, location. A couple balls he tried to get in just ran back over the plate. … for him, it’s working ahead in counts. His put-away pitch, he’s trying to bury too many pitches. He’s got to start throwing his breaking balls a little bit more for strikes.”

It was his first live action since his final start of the season last October 2nd, which left him with a 5.31 ERA, a 5.71 FIP, 28 walks, 63 Ks, 15 home runs allowed, and a .238/.322/.489 line against in 12 starts and 62 23 IP as part of the Nationals’ rotation. Getting back on the hill in a competitive atmosphere reminded Gray why he loves his job.

“Getting back out there with the routine and fans and even sitting down in between innings, there’s nothing that replicates that,” he said. “Getting to be out there for the first time in six or so months reinstills that love for the game — and I’m excited to do that for the rest of the year.”

Martinez said after Gray’s initial outing of the spring that there were some mechanical tweaks to make as the right-hander prepares for his first full season in the nation’s capital.

“We’ve got to get him to stay closed,” with, “(his front shoulder),” MASN’s Mark Zuckerman added in a parenthetical aside, quoting the manager and noting Martinez was, “… referring specifically to the recurring issue of fastballs running back over the plate.”

“He opens up,” the manager continued. “We’re going to focus on him just staying closed a little bit longer, and I think we can resolve that a little bit.”

Martinez also said earlier this spring Gray would be working without the same sort of protective measures the club took with him late last season, after he’d had a shoulder impingement limit his time on the mound while still with LA before the trade.

He’s full-go this spring and building up to start the season as part of the big league rotation.

“Last year we took care of him,” Martinez said, “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.”

What Gray did last night was retire the first seven Houston Astros’ batters he faced in order on 28 pitches, striking out four, and he ended up going 3 13 innings in which he gave up two hits and two runs, one earned, while striking out five in the end.

“A lot more pleased,” Gray said of the outing overall, as quoted by MASN’s Zuckerman after the game. “Just pounding the strike zone, commanding the baseball a lot better. Just being more confident out there on the mound. So, pleased for sure.”

His manager liked the way he worked ahead in counts and put opposing batters away.

“He’s so good when he gets ahead of hitters,” Martinez explained. “And not to be so fine when he does get ahead of hitters. It was really nice today. As we always say, when you’re 0-2, 1-2, a hitter has got to be a little more aggressive, a little more protective of the strike zone. So if you make the right pitch, without trying to do too much, hitters become very defensive. And he was good today.”