The Rockies' starting rotation hasn't been impressive. Now, the team will have to move forward without its ace pitcher.
He was supposed to be the ace, the go-to guy and the anchor of the rotation.
Now, less than two weeks into the season, Colorado Rockies pitcher Jon Gray is on the disabled list and expected to be out at least a month with a foot fracture, according to Rockies beat writer Patrick Saunders.
Gray was one of the shining stars in 2016 for a team that has boasted one of the worst pitching staffs in the league since 2010 – the club ranked in the bottom five in team ERA in each of those seasons.
He took a huge step last year in the majors, collecting 185 strikeouts in 168 innings. He finished the campaign with a bloated 4.61 ERA on the year, but that was expected, considering the Coors Field effect.
However, there were some outings where he exhibited his potential to be one of 2017’s breakout stars. He tossed a complete game shutout against the Padres last September, racking up 16 strikeouts in the process. Additionally, in 12 of his 31 starts in 2016, he whiffed at least eight guys.
Gray’s injury leaves Colorado in a tough position.
The Rockies began the season already missing one of their more reliable starters in Chad Bettis, who is undergoing treatment for testicular cancer. With Gray’s absence and rough starts from Tyler Anderson and Tyler Chatwood, Colorado will have difficulty sustaining itself near the top of the NL West standings.
There is no word on who manager Bud Black will bring in to replace Gray, but he has some options.
As of now, reliever Shane Carla has taken Gray’s spot on the roster. This could mean that the Rockies plan on using a four-man rotation for the next few weeks. But they will need a fifth starter eventually, so a few guys could get the nod.
Jordan Lyles and Chris Rusin have both had stints in the rotation throughout the past couple of seasons, but aren’t ideal choices – each boasts a career ERA higher than 4.50. Triple-A hurlers German Marquez and Jeff Hoffman fought for a rotation spot in Spring Training, thus one of them may get the call.
Hoffman would be the ideal choice, as he was one of the Rockies’ top prospects last year. But he struggled in the big leagues last season, posting a 4.88 ERA and possessing a suboptimal 1.29 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He hasn’t done anything this year that improves his chances either, allowing six runs in 11 innings through two starts in Triple-A.
Whoever Gray’s replacement is, they will need to help eat up some innings. Colorado’s bullpen has already thrown 45 innings this year, second most in the league. And while Antonio Senzatela and Kyle Freeland have been solid thus far, they probably won’t keep it up for long.
The offense and bullpen has carried the team so far and will have to do so moving forward if the Rockies intend to compete. But no one knows how long they can keep it up.