Gray Set for Opener; Rockies 25-Man Roster In Place

For Jon Gray and the Rockies, the 2018 season begins where the 2017 season ended.

That’s where they want the similarity to end.

Manager Bud Black confirmed on Tuesday what had been expected all along, that Gray will start the opening game of the regular season against the Diamondbacks at Chase Field, where Gray drew the start for the Rockies in the wild-card showdown with the Diamondbacks on Oct. 4 last season.

The Rockies lost 11-8. Gray had a no-decision. He, however, gave up four runs in 1 1/3 innings, the shortest start of his big-league career. Indications are it was a learning experience for Gray, who will be starting on Opening Day for the second year in a row. And this year he is healthy. A year ago he tried to pitch with a broken bone in his left foot before finally going on the disabled list for two months.

He was, however, 10-4 with a 3.67 ERA, including going 10-4 with a 3.31 ERA in 17 starts after coming off the disabled list. And then came that start in the Wild-Card Game.

“John self-admitted that he handled that game differently than what he did the second half of the season,” said Black. “I thought that was admirable, that he came out and said emotionally he treated that game differently. That’s a good sign of some maturity, how he handled that game.

“There are steps to be taken all the time for growth, and I think that was one of them last year for John.”

Gray said what happened last October is a memory but won’t be on his mind Thursday.

“I will protect against (thinking about that game),” he said. “If I go out and do what I do, I’ll be fine. Thinking about old stuff won’t help anything. It’s about going to the mound on Thursday, trying to get one out after another, throw one pitch at a time, and focusing on the moment, not what happened or what could happen.”

Black also announced that Tyler Anderson and German Marquez will start the Friday and Saturday games at Arizona.

The Rockies also sent outfielder Raimel Tapia and catcher Tom Murphy to Triple-A Albuquerque, reducing their major-league spring training roster to 29, but for all practical purposes the Opening Day 25 is lined up.

The Rockies have only 12 position players among the remaining 29, which means Ryan McMahon is expected to be on the roster. He figures to be the primary first baseman with Ian Desmond in left field, and Gerardo Parra the fourth outfielder.

Desmond would spell McMahon at first base, and it’s not out of the question McMahon could see an occasional game at third, his original position, or even second base, where he appeared in 39 games at the minor-league level last year, including 35 starts.

Black has indicated he would like to have two relievers capable of pitching multiple innings, and that left-handed Chris Rusin and right-handed Antonio Senzatela would give him a good combination. Primarily a starter in his career, Senzatela did finish the 2018 season in the bullpen, making 16 appearances and compiling a 3.04 ERA. He allowed only 21 baserunners (13 hits and eight walks) in 23 2/3 innings out of the bullpen.

The Rockies have 17 pitchers on their roster, but Black confirmed after Tuesday's game that right-handers Carlos Estevez, Rayan Gonzalez and Jeff Hoffman, and lefty Scott Rosscup figure to open the season on the disabled list, which means Senzatela makes the team.

Gray becomes the fifth pitcher in franchise history to draw back-to-back Opening Day starts.

Jon Gray discusses his Opening Day assignment.

Tracy RingolsbyComment