DENVER -- Rookie right-hander Jon Gray expects to make his next start, on Monday against the Blue Jays, as long as he takes it easy during his between-starts throwing program.
Arm fatigue -- no pain, just weakness, he said -- created severe control and command issues during Wednesday's start against the Yankees, and he was removed after four-plus innings. Strength testing on Thursday confirmed the original diagnosis of arm fatigue. No MRI was performed.
So Gray will reduce Friday's throwing session from 40 pitches to around 25 and play catch from between 90 and 100 feet, as opposed to 120 to 150 feet.
"In the throwing program, I'm going to take it easy, really focus on my delivery," Gray said. "As long as I get the fastball back in the zone, I think I'll be fine."
In 2014, Gray learned the hard way that less is more. He felt similar fatigue at the end of the season at Double-A Tulsa, where he went 10-5 with a 3.91 ERA in 24 starts.
"I saw my [velocity] drop and thought I needed to throw more, and I ended up making it worse," said Gray, who was shut down before the Texas League playoffs. "I ended up making it worse. Taking it easier seems to be the right way to go."
Gray's ability to run a fastball at 98 mph often can pull him through periods when his command isn't the best. But Wednesday was different. After not walking more than three in any game, he had three walks by the second inning -- when he gave up Chase Headley's grand slam -- and finished his outing with five free passes.
"I didn't feel any kind of pain or tightness or anything; everything felt loose and good," he said. "I just didn't have the strength, and it didn't come out the same. I don't care so much about the velocity drop, but it messed with my command and my release points -- I'd throw a fastball in the dirt, then the next one was up. I was like, 'Oh, my gosh.'"
Gray's pitched 155 total innings between the Minors and Majors last year. The Rockies called him up in August but limited him to 40 2/3 innings and never let him go past six in any of his nine starts. The team will be cognizant of his innings total and will guard against too big an increase, but he has plenty in the bank. He sustained an abdominal injury during Spring Training, which reduced his innings in the beginning. Thus far he has pitched 78 -- 8 2/3 in a two-start Minor League rehab assignment and 69 1/3 with the big league club.