Consider it a measure of how vastly improved the Rockies’ pitching rotation is this season: Right-hander Jon Gray, rebuilding himself after suffering a broken foot in April, will pitch again in the minor-leagues, not out of necessity, but luxury.
“If we really needed him, we’d probably pitch him,” Colorado manager Bud Black said. “But this is more about what Jon needs than what we need.”
Gray will pitch Saturday for Triple-A Albuquerque in a third rehab start, this time against the El Paso Chihuahuas. Gray on Monday struck out seven batters and walked just one for the Isotopes at Sacramento. He threw 74 pitches over 4 1/3 innings.
The Rockies, though, want to get his pitch count into the 90s. Including a start for Single-A Lancaster last week, Gray has thrown just 8 1/3 innings since his injury April 12 at San Francisco, when he fielded a groundball off the mound and suffered a stress fracture in his left foot.
“It just makes sense for Jon to pitch again without limits,” Black said. “He hasn’t pitched enough. We’re gonna make him pitch more.”
In Gray’s absence, the Rockies continue to flourish with four rookie starters: Kyle Freeland, Antonio Senzatela, German Marquez and Jeff Hoffman. Collectively, they are 26-9 with a 3.65 ERA over 43 starts. Veteran 27-year-old Tyler Chatwood rounds out the list.
Black, for now, is delaying a difficult decision. Who to jettison from the rotation? And Gray knows the bar was raised.
“I don’t want to stumble when I get up here,” said Gray, who was 0-0 with a 4.38 ERA in three starts for the Rockies before the injury. “I want to cruise. I want to get in a zone and feel the flow. That’s when everything is easy. When you know your game already, you know your feel, you know what your stuff does.”
Anderson too. The return of lefty Tyler Anderson — who gave up one run in five innings, while striking out six and walking one for Albuquerque on Sunday — remains undecided. Anderson (left knee inflammation) will remain with the Rockies this week while continuing to test his health and readiness.
“We’re gonna see how his knee is in the next couple days. We like where he is physically,” Black said.
The 27-year-old Anderson (3-5, 5.85) last pitched May 30 against the Mariners in Denver, an 11-hit outing over five innings in the Rockies’ 10-4 loss.
His lone minor-league game this season was impressive, Black said. “Tyler was fine,” he said. “Stuff was good. All the reports we got were fine.”