Colorado Rockies right-handed ace Jon Grayhit the 10-day Disabled List on Friday with a stress fracture in his left foot. This injury will likely cost the Rockies starter six weeks of big league action. For a team on the precipice of contention and for a player a step away from stardom this injury can not be understated.
No matter what the Rockies without Gray his absence will impact them and hang over the club for his time on the shelf. There are options—talented options—but none have the pedigree of Gray.
"It's saddening news for us, especially with the way he's been throwing the ball," Bud Black said in San Francisco on Friday.
The immediate replacement—at least on the roster—is Shane Carle. At 25, the right-hander has made two appearances for Albuquerque this season, allowing five hits and four runs in three innings combined. In his professional career going back to 2013, he is 24-25 with a 3.98 ERA (468.1 IP, 207 ER) with 95 walks and 320 strikeouts over 97 games, including 73 starts. He was drafted by Pittsburgh in 2013 and acquired for the Rockies from the Pirates for right-handed pitcher Rob Scahill in 2014.
Carle will most likely stick in the bullpen while Chris Rusin may jump into the rotation. Yet the Rockies have two off days next week so it's possible they go with a four-man rotation as they won't need a fifth starter until Tuesday, Apr., 25. Rusin has been terrific for Colorado, especially in the last year-plus. He started seven games last year and has made 49 total in the bigs. But Black said today that he really likes what Rusin can provide in terms of versatilely in the bullpen, including him being a third lefty and that he can pitch multiple innings a few times a week.
The issue for Colorado is despite Gray being on the DL for "only 10 days" is that he will not be ready in 10 days, meaning the Rockies need a longer option.
"It's probably going to be longer than that," Black responded on if Gray could be back in 28 days, let alone 10.
Where things get interesting for the Rockies is in who Black said could take Gray's spot. He listed Jeff Hoffman, German Marquez, Harrison Musgrave, and Rusin are among the candidates.
The first three are some of Colorado's top prospects, coming in at two, four and 27 respectively according to MLB.com.
Starting with Hoffman, 24, the Rockies top pitching prospect, who came over in the Troy Tulowitzki trade from Toronto. In two starts this season in Triple-A he has two no decisions with a 4.91 ERA but he has a low WHIP of 1.091 and 10 strikeouts in 11 innings. Hoffman made his MLB debut last season and pitched 31-and-a-third innings for the Denver Nine with a 4.88 ERA. After an unsuccessful spring, he started in Triple-A and he's a guy with a small amount of pro experience since he was recovering from Tommy John in his draft year.
Marquez, 22, started the season in the majors and didn't make an appearance. He pitched in six games last season, making three starts. In 20-and-two-thirds innings of work, he recorded a 5.23 ERA with some WHIP issues. However he has a nasty strikeout rate that carried over to the majors, in fact, it was the big reason he was traded alongside Jake McGee for Corey Dickerson and Kevin Padlo. Marquez has worked just two innings of relief for the Isotopes in 2017 but had a good spring. Long term the Rockies see him as a starter, GM Jeff Birdich was asked about it a few days ago, and his response was "how could you not (see him a starter)?"
Musgrave, 25, a lefty that was the Rockies eighth round pick in 2014 out of West Virginia. He has recorded succeeded throughout the minors including a terrific 2016 where he threw 153-and-a-third innings between Double-A and Triple-A, most of which were in Albuquerque, for a 13-8 record including a slick 3.64 ERA. He's not as flashy of a replacement but his call-up could signal the Rockies not wanting to stunt minor league development of Hoffman or Marquez and not wanting to switch Rusin's role. Musgrave is not on the 40-man roster so that would require a move from the Rockies.
Whatever the Rockies do they will not be able to replace Gray, just simply fill in for him. But this injury will not require Yohan Flande to carry the load for Colorado, a sign that times are a changing.