Jon Gray Prepares for His Anticipated Return to Coors Field

Jon Gray shares his thoughts on returning to Coors Field for the first time since leaving the Colorado Rockies for the Texas Rangers.

ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 24: Jon Gray #22 of the Texas Rangers pitches against the Seattle Mariners during the first inning at Globe Life Field on April 24, 2024 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

OAKLAND — After throwing a seven-inning gem in Kansas City on Sunday, Texas Rangers starter Jon Gray got to enjoy the sun-splashed days inside the Oakland Coliseum early this week without having to take the mound. With the favorable schedule, while the defending World Champions were taking care of business against the Oakland A’s, Gray was able to turn his thoughts to what will be an emotional reunion this weekend in Denver.

The third-overall pick by the Colorado Rockies in the 2013 MLB draft, Gray is expected to pitch against his former team for the first time at altitude on Friday in his first return to Denver since signing a four-year, $56 million deal before the 2022 campaign. Gray not only made his MLB debut with the Rockies in 2015, but pitched for the franchise for seven years, going 53-49 with a 4.59 ERA/3.91 FIP/1.338 WHIP in 829.1 innings over 152 games (151 starts).

Gray has faced the Rockies once before, scattering five hits and one run over 5.0 innings while striking out six to earn the win on May 20, 2023, in Arlington.

That was in Texas, however. Gray was on the injured list with an oblique strain when Texas traveled to Colorado in August of 2022, so this weekend’s trip to Denver will not only be a chance for Gray to take the mound in Denver, but also reignite acquaintances.

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“I just want to enjoy it really,” Gray told me. “It’s a game at Coors Field, so it’s going to be fun. I’m excited to see what that’s like after being away for so long.”

Despite the time gap between his starts there, Gray knows Coors Field well, having made 74 starts there (and one relief appearance) while posting a 4.54 ERA. His 9.213 strikeouts per nine innings are the most of any Rockies pitcher in franchise history and his 1.338 WHIP and 849 strikeouts both rank third all-time. His 16 strikeouts in a September 2016 outing against the San Diego Padres still stand as a Colorado single-game record.

Yes, there are plenty of numbers and memories that weave Gray and the Rockies together, even if he’s in the middle of a strong start to the season for Texas. Through his first seven starts (eight games) of the young 2024 campaign, Gray has a 2.50 ERA/2.51 FIP/1.160 WHIP and 42 strikeouts in 39.2 innings.

“I just feel like more of a complete pitcher,” Gray told me about his evolution on the mound since joining the Rangers. “I feel like a little bit more of a veteran. I’ll cruise through a game but there are two or three moments in the game where you have to lock it down to make that a good game. I feel like I’m doing that a lot of times. A lot of times in the past, that would get away. One game I would give up six runs and the next game would be a shutout. It was so back and forth, but right now I feel about as close to being consistent as I can be.”

While Gray will be back in Denver and have time to reminisce and catch up, make no mistake that this is a business trip for the 32-year-old right-hander and he will be sharing his tips and tricks for pitching in Denver with his Texas teammates.

“We’re in another bullpen this time,” Gray smiled. “I’ve seen opposing pitchers get completely gassed out there, so there’s a lot of stuff that goes with pitching there. But I’ve always enjoyed pitching there, so I’m excited about it.”

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