Josiah Gray kicked off his Nationals career with five innings of one-run baseball Monday night, giving Washington a glimpse of its future after it acquired Gray only three days earlier as part of its return for shipping Max Scherzer and Trea Turner off to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The 23-year-old righty flashed 95 mph on the radar gun as he allowed four hits and two walks with a pair of strikeouts. Gray needed only 71 pitches to get through the five frames, working out of jams in the fourth and fifth innings. He also threw first-pitch strikes to three out of every four batters he faced, which he took as one of the biggest positives from the performance.
“I felt pretty comfortable throughout the whole outing,” Gray said after the game. “Just from pitch one to my last pitch, nerves didn’t really get to me. Obviously, they were still there a little bit but I felt comfortable. I felt like my stuff was pretty good. I felt like it could be better, which it will be better [as] I continue to get better. But overall, I’m happy with the outing and I think there’s a lot of room to grow.”
With Gray now officially indoctrinated into the Nationals’ rotation, the team’s shift toward prioritizing its young players’ development is well underway. Infielders Carter Kieboom and Luis García have both started every game since the trade deadline while Tres Barrera has handled a large share of catching duties. The bullpen has seen Kyle Finnegan, Gabe Klobosits and Mason Thompson each pitch in high-leverage situations.
Among those players, only Finnegan is older than 26. All are under team control through at least 2025. Not to mention Juan Soto is still only 22 years old and the Nationals have him locked up for the next three seasons. Gray only met his new teammates for the first time Sunday, but he’s already liked what he’s seen from the young core being built around him.
“I think we got a great ballclub,” Gray said. “Obviously, a lot of guys that are getting a real chance to play, a chance to make a name for themselves in the big leagues so no one’s out here trying to do too much. Everyone’s just trying to play their game and enjoy it as they can and I’m sure we’re gonna sneak up on a lot of teams, win some ballgames.
“I’m glad to be a part of this team. I’ll get a good shot, a good road, for this year and prove myself in the big leagues just like everyone here. So everyone’s gonna come to play every day. We got a really good ball club and I’m really excited for now and I’m really excited for the future with this team and with this organization.”
It’s unlikely the Nationals (49-57) overcome their six-and-a-half-game deficit in the NL East and catch the New York Mets in time to make a postseason push. That doesn’t mean they have nothing to play for the rest of the way. These next two months will go a long way toward determining who gets a shot at a roster spot in 2022.
For Gray, that just means taking things one inning at a time.
“Obviously, Scherzer has some large shoes for me to fill,” Gray said. “But I’m gonna go out there and just throw my game every day. Not try to think about, ‘Man, I have to go out there and throw seven perfect innings.’ I just want to go out there, put a scoreless inning up every inning that I’m able to and put my team in a position to win.”