Gray close to regular-season clearance

Barring issues, right-hander could make debut Friday vs. Dodgers

Gray close to regular-season clearance

CINCINNATI -- Rockies rookie right-handed pitcher Jon Gray plans to throw a side session Tuesday and hopes to be cleared to make his 2016 regular-season debut Friday night against the Dodgers.

Gray suffered an abdominal strain late in Spring Training, but he has made two injury rehab starts, of 64 and 77 pitches, at Class A Advanced Modesto (2.08 ERA, 11 strikeouts, three walks in 8 2/3 innings). Gray said not only has the injury healed, but the mechanical flaw -- opening toward the plate too soon -- that led to the problem has also been corrected.

If cleared, Gray, 24, will get his unfettered chance to show what the Rockies got with the No. 3 pick in the 2014 Draft. In an effort to control his innings pitched, since it was just his second full professional season, the Rockies kept Gray on strict pitch and innings restrictions during a nine-game entrée late last season (0-2, 5.53 ERA).

Manager Walt Weiss, who said the Rockies' staff wants to see Gray work before committing to Friday, looks forward to letting Gray go full steam.

"We have big plans for Jonny this year," Weiss said. "He's obviously a talented kid, a big arm. When he's right, he can certainly help us."

Worth noting
• Sunday was a quiet success for Rockies right-handed reliever Miguel Castro when he posted a clean eighth inning in a 2-0 victory over the Cubs at Wrigley Field. Cubs manager Joe Maddon went to left-handed-hitting Miguel Montero and Tommy La Stella with one out, and Castro demonstrated that if his still-developing changeup is right, he can be matchup-proof.

With the count 2-0, catcher Tony Wolters called for the change that was a called strike to Montero before Castro worked to a swinging strikeout with the count full. He forced La Stella to ground to first base to end the inning. Castro already possesses an upper-90s fastball and a low 80s slider on the glove side, and his changeup works armside and away from left-handed bats. It's the type of mix that would serve a closer well if he is given that opportunity.

"These are the pitches I get from the signs from the catcher," Castro said in Spanish through an interpreter. "I use what they tell me.

"I use it both for righties and lefties -- whenever I need to do a good job."

• Second baseman DJ LeMahieu didn't start on Monday for the second time in three games because of a slight left groin strain. LeMahieu played Sunday and didn't run as well as normal. "It's just the fact that it's still there. I don't want something to linger for DJ," said Weiss.

• Catcher Nick Hundley -- who is eligible to return from the seven-day concussion disabled list on Friday -- ran, did agility drills and took batting practice Monday. But Hundley said he felt good after drills, although when he will be cleared to play is unpredictable.

• The Rockies extended their radio contract with KOA (850 AM) for five seasons through 2021. KOA has been the Rockies' only flagship station.

Thomas Harding is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.