Jon Gray had a really rough fifth inning in his 2017 season debut where he pitched four-plus innings. In the Colorado Rockies opener against the Milwaukee Brewers Gray made it into the fifth and then hit a wall. His line in the inning included five runs, all earned, on six hits, two walks and a strikeout.

But the first four innings were indicative of a pitcher that was on the cusp of making the jump to elite status, just as many had expected for 2017.

Gray’s fastball sat about one mph faster in the first four innings and he topped at 98.4, just one mph slower than the fastest pitch of his career. In the last inning of work the velocity came down a touch from his career average in the fifth inning but it appeared more to be a fatigue thing than an issue with his toe, which has plagued him this spring. His pitches flattened out in the fifth which would tell fatigue as well.

Credit: Baseball Savant

But the first four innings he mostly looked extremely sharp and his pitch mix combined with his stuff was remarkable. Using a changeup, which we’ve rarely seen out of the 25-year-old Gray, he was able to capture three strikeouts, two looking. He also boldly used his curveball to start off batters, which he only did 12 percent of the time last season.

Credit: Baseball Savant

Overall it was his slider that impressed the most. Using a slider which sat at 91, and topped at 93 mph. It looked similar to what is in Noah Syndergaard‘s arsenal. The slider remained effective all day, and a good sign for the Rockies is that it’s usually Gray’s go-to pitch at home while the curve is his pitch normally on the road.

Gray’s next start will be against Clayton Kershaw on Saturday at Coors Field, first pitch is at 1:10.

Jake Shapiro

Since he was a teenager Jake has been a credentialed reporter, now he works on the Colorado Rockies beat for BSN Denver. ‘Shap’ was discovered by a BSN Denver employee while picking a fight in Beer League Softball—despite his five-foot-three frame—earning him respect and a job. He does play-by-play on the radio for all CU games, and studied Journalism at the University of Colorado. Follow him on Twitter @Shapalicious.