Rockies' Gray seizes chance, impresses in win over Brewers
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) Jon Gray allowed two singles in four scoreless innings, helping his chances of making Colorado's rotation and leading the Rockies to 5-1 win over the Milwaukee Brewers on Monday.
Gray is one of four young pitchers competing to replace Jhoulys Chacin, released in a surprise move Sunday amid a rough spring.
The 23-year-old Gray, Colorado's top prospect, has not pitched above Double-A. But manager Walt Weiss said the right-hander is in the mix for the rotation.
''It's something I thought about,'' Gray said, ''but I didn't let it eat me up.''
Gray's fastball hit 97 mph and he struck out two, including Ryan Braun. Carlos Gomez singled in the first before Gray picked him off. Braun had another single in the fourth.
''We faced a tough pitcher,'' Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke said.
Nolan Arenado hit a leadoff drive in the second against Brewers starter Tyler Thornburg. It was his fourth homer of the spring.
Gerardo Parra, a two-time Gold Glove outfielder, started at first base for Milwaukee.
''There wasn't enough there, but he looked comfortable,'' Roenicke said.
Brewers: Thornburg gave up only one more hit in four innings, striking out four in his second spring start. The right-hander is being stretched out in case he's needed as a starter, but could end up in a long-relief role.
Rockies: Gray was helped by his defense, as Carlos Gonzalez made a diving catch in right field, and Troy Tulowitzki and Rafael Ynoa made nice plays in the infield.
Weiss knows what many were thinking following Chacin's release.
''It is a risk,'' Weiss said. ''We've cut ties with a major league pitcher. There's risk in that. We're willing - I don't know if I want to say roll the dice - but we're willing to make the move because we feel like there's talent that's on the brink.''
Weiss will spend the last two weeks of camp eyeing Gray, Eddie Butler, Christian Bergman and David Hale.
''With some of our young pitchers, we're seeing the maturity level start to line up with their talent level,'' Weiss said.
Brewers: Gomez left an inning early as a precaution after jamming his shoulder. Roenicke said it wasn't serious. ... RHP Chris Perez, scratched a day earlier with an inner ear issue, allowed two hits and a walk, but left the bases loaded in one inning.
Rockies: Weiss said LHP Jorge De La Rosa is in ''a bit of limbo right now'' as he recovers from a lingering groin strain. De La Rosa is not on the pitching schedule for what should be his next start Wednesday. ... 1B Justin Morneau (elbow) went 0 for 3 in his first game in five days.
PITCHER BATS 8TH?
Weiss played for and remains close with Tony La Russa, who experimented with hitting the pitcher eighth when he managed.
Weiss had Gray bat eighth, but not before explaining it to his players.
''I don't want them to ever think I'm screwing with our chances to win or I think I'm smarter than the game or anybody else,'' Weiss said. ''But it intrigues me enough that I wanted to look at it a few times down here.''
Weiss' thinking is it allows better hitters to move up one spot in the order and maybe get an extra at-bat.
MINOR LEAGUE WORK
With the teams meeting to open the season, both managers moved potential starters in that series to minor league games.
Right-hander Wily Peralta pitched in the Brewers' Triple-A game. Colorado left-hander Tyler Matzek allowed three earned runs and five hits in 3 1-3 innings against Arizona's Triple-A team.
''Working on fastball command, so I was throwing a lot of heaters,'' said Matzek, who struck out six. ''I gave up some hits because of that.''
The Brewers also sent RHP David Goforth to the minors, leaving 40 players in camp.
Brewers: RHP Michael Blazek starts Tuesday against Arizona.
Rockies: RHPs Jordan Lyles and Bergman are slated to pitch Tuesday against the Chicago White Sox.