Rockies right-hander Jon Gray left Friday’s game after 2 1/3 innings due to what manager Bud Black described as right elbow soreness and tightness in Gray’s forearm. Gray was charged with five runs in the abbreviated outing, with the injury clearly a factor.
“When I spoke to Jon, he indicated that his soreness impacted his pitching,” Black told The Denver Post’s Patrick Saunders and other reporters. “I don’t think he felt it on every pitch. It started to tighten as the game went on. That’s when we noticed the variability with his pitch-making and with his mannerisms.”
In the bigger picture, any sort of forearm or elbow issue is naturally a major concern for a pitcher. It seems likely that Gray will miss at least one start for precautionary reasons if nothing else due to the nature of the injury, and a trip to the injured list shouldn’t be ruled out until Gray undergoes further testing and medical examination. Gray has generally avoided any major arm injuries over the years, apart from the shoulder inflammation that prematurely ended his 2020 season in early September.
While it’s too early to ring the alarm on a potential Tommy John surgery, an injury that sidelines Gray for any noteworthy amount of time will have some ramifications on both his future and the Rockies’ trade deadline plans. In the opinion of MLBTR’s Steve Adams, Gray is nothing less than the top trade candidate in baseball at this point in the season, owing to Colorado’s spot near the bottom of the standings, Gray’s decent numbers through 63 innings, and the righty’s impending free agent status.
An IL stint of anything more than a month or so would throw a wrench into Gray’s trade value, or perhaps prevent a deal altogether if teams are concerned about Gray’s arm. Similarly, Gray’s ability to score a lucrative multi-year deal in free agency this winter could be hampered, perhaps to the point where he’d have to settle for a one-year deal.
Gray had been inconsistent in the three starts prior to last night’s injury-shortened appearance, and for the season, he has posted a 4.29 ERA/4.72 SIERA over 63 innings. His 18.5% strikeout rate and 10% walk rate are both below average, but Gray’s overall Statcast outlook is not bad, and his 52.4% grounder rate is a career high. Though Gray has been much better at Coors Field than on the road this season, he has some value as a potential change-of-scenery candidate who could perhaps thrive in a more normal pitching environment than the thin air of Colorado.