Gray makes his Rockies debut tonight

It’s one of the most anticipated debuts in the 20-year history of the Colorado Rockies, Rookie ball or not.

Jon Gray, the No. 3 overall pick of the June amateur baseball draft, will pitch in his first professional game at 7:05 tonight when the Grand Junction Rockies play the Billings Mustangs at Suplizio Field.

“I’m obviously ready to get out there. I don’t know what to expect. I expect to do good, I hope to do good. I’m going to try my best to,” Gray said Tuesday afternoon.

Gray, the Rockies’ highest draft pick since pitcher Greg Reynolds (No. 2, 2006), will throw 45 pitches or three innings tonight, whichever comes first, Grand Junction pitching coach Ryan Kibler said.

He hasn’t pitched in a game since June 7, when Oklahoma lost 2-0 to LSU in the NCAA Super Regionals.

“It’s been a long time,” Gray said. “I can’t even remember how long it’s been since I’ve pitched in a game.”

After throwing 126 1/3 innings for Oklahoma this spring, the college pitcher of the year is on a short leash.

Gray will throw 40-45 innings between now and September, Kibler said, whether that’s for Grand Junction or if he’s promoted to one of the Rockies’ Class A teams.

“I just want to see where I’m at, see if the things I’ve been working on since I’ve been here have made progress to make myself a better pitcher,” Gray said.

The 6-foot-4, 239-pound right-hander has worked every day to improve his change-up since he arrived in Grand Junction on June 17.

His fastball, which tops 100 mph, is as good as they come, and he has a nasty slider that was all but unhittable at the college level.

“We’re going to touch on the things that he’s going to have to have in the big leagues, and he’s going to have to have that change-up,” Kibler said.

Gray plans to throw his change-up tonight along with his fastball.

“I just want to see where that’s at in a game,” he said. “I’m excited for that.”

Gray feels no pressure about his debut, and he has been paying attention to how Suplizio plays during the Rockies’ first nine home games, noting he has to “live low” in the strike zone.

“I don’t think there’s any pressure at all. The fans, yeah, they want to see you do good, but you have to look back and say this is Rookie ball, everybody’s just trying to develop here,” Gray said.

“If I do go out and something bad happens, that’s a good thing, because I’ll know not to do that again. I’ll learn from it and become a better player.”

Kibler said he’s as excited as anyone to see Gray take the mound for real.

“He’s ready to go,” Kibler said. “He’s excited. We’ve got to rein that excitement in a little bit.”

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