Josiah Gray warmed up for last Monday’s series opener with Atlanta, but a last-minute rain delay in D.C., which dragged on for over ninety minutes, put the starter in a tough position, and his manager, Davey Martinez, decided he didn’t want his 24-year-old starter taking the mound in those circumstances, so he skipped Gray’s turn in Washington’s rotation, and held him out until this past Saturday afternoon.
“We felt like [Gray] was fully warmed,” Martinez explained. “He came out of the gate, they told us they were going to put the tarp on, he sat for a very, very long time, and I’m not going to do that to him. He was in uncharted waters right there, so I decided after an hour and a half that we weren’t going to send him out, and he was good.
“He was very uneasy throughout the process because he didn’t know what to expect, and like I said, that’s uncharted waters for a young kid like that.
“And he’s been pitching well, so we’ll push him back, we’ll treat this as a bullpen day, and then I’m going to see how he feels tomorrow and then we’ll make a decision when he’s going to start again.”
On Tuesday, the manager shared his thinking on when he would slot Gray back into the mix.
“I’m going to sit down with him and [Pitching Coach Jim] Hickey,” he said. “I haven’t talked to him yet, we had a late start today, so I’m going to sit down with him and Hickey and see where we’re at. I thought — as I sat here last night by myself, I thought maybe we push him back a little bit and give him some time off, because he’s been out there every five days and has done well.
Josiah Gray, Nasty 87mph Slider. pic.twitter.com/XedfBnDMDL— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 18, 2022
“But I want to talk to Hickey and I want to talk to him about that, if that’s feasible for him as well, so if he feels like he needs an extra few days then we’ll give it to him.”
By Wednesday he’d come up with a plan.
“You know, I honestly think — after talking with Hickey, and talking to [Gray] a little bit, almost like bumping him a start, and giving him a little break,” Martinez told reporters.
“Like I said, this guy has done well for us, so, I told Hickey I think maybe we should just have him skip a start and just get on regular rest, regular routine, he’ll throw a bullpen again, and then get him ready for Saturday.”
Apparently the extra rest suited Gray well, because he held the Philadelphia Phillies to one hit in six scoreless on Saturday afternoon, walking three, striking out four, and throwing a career-high 117 pitches overall in an impressive outing in what ended up a 2-1 loss in extras for the Nationals.
Gray generated just nine swinging strikes on the day, though he picked up 18 called strikes, 10 with his fastball, and four each with his slider and curve, and the Phillies’ hitters did foul off 21 of his 117 pitches, helping to run his pitch count up and get him out of the game a bit quicker than the starter and his manager would have preferred.
Gray did, however, put together a good outing in front of a sold-out Nationals Park there to celebrate Ryan Zimmerman’s No. 11 jersey retirement ceremony, and he said afterwards he really enjoyed the atmosphere.
“It was awesome,” Gray said, as quoted by MASN’s Bobby Blanco.
“Obviously, I wanted to go out there, and do well for Zim, and the people in attendance, but it was awesome to see 40,000-plus people there cheering for the Nats, rooting for the Nats. So I’m glad I got the ball that game and it was a lot of fun.”
Getting the opportunity to go as deep as he did, in terms of his pitch count at least, meant a lot to the starter:
“I was kind of peeking in the dugout. I didn’t know what Davey was thinking. But once I didn’t see him move, I knew he had the confidence in me to go out there and get that last out.
“And I knew I had the confidence in myself to go get that last out. So that obviously meant a lot.”
“Josiah, once again he pitched well, but his pitch count got way up there,” Martinez said in his post game press conference following the loss.
“Knowing that he had a week off, he has another week off, we let him go a little bit, but he battled, did well, but we really got to talk to him about trying to get so many swings and misses and trying to get some early contact, but he’s got good stuff. And if we can get him to start getting quicker innings, you’ll see him start to go into that seventh inning. His stuff is good. His stuff is really good. And he’s really learning. He battled today to get to those last couple outs, but he said he appreciated it, that was a good learning experience for him.
“So, I said, ‘Well, I’d like to see you do that more in the seventh or eighth with that many pitches, but I’m proud of you. Keep going. You’re doing well.’”