[Yes, we know he spoke to FG well before his start this week. Yes, it's also funnier this way.]
Gray has been, full stop, the best pitcher in baseball so far this season. At the very least, he's neck-and-neck with Gerrit Cole through five starts, bringing his 0.62 ERA to the table against Cole's 0.79 mark. Cole has more Ks and more innings pitched, but Gray has a better ratio (34 Ks in 29 innings vs. 36 in 34 for the Yankees' ace).
So ... how is he doing it? Because, when he was in New York, Gray didn't have this confidence. He had the same arsenal, but had a tough time putting hitters away in 2017, then watched it all fall apart in '18. Could he "not handle" New York? Or was it a deeper issue? Was New York handling him all wrong?
It's become abundantly clear in the aftermath of Gray's Yankees tenure that Larry Rothschild and the team's pitching apparatus had no clue what to do with him, and in the right-hander's latest interview, he lays that bare a multitude of different times. Listening to Gray, you come to quickly realize the Yankees are the only team he ever pitched for that didn't understand him.
Yankees bust Sonny Gray spills on how Larry Rothschild screwed him up
In essence, Gray asserts that the Yankees of 2017-18 treated all fastballs equally. Does it spin well? Great! Then throw it high in the zone.
Gray comes over with a career's worth of success tossing his cutting fastball low in the zone? Who cares! Throw it high. High is better. High is best.
These guys didn't know anything! And, just when you think Gray's done piling on after apologizing/reminding everyone that only the Astros/Dodgers really "got it" back in 2017-18 ... boom, he hits 'em again!
"Laurila: Now you’re in Minnesota. Gray: “Yes, and another thing with New York is that it was also ‘Don’t throw any two-seams, we’re going to just throw four-seams, curveballs, and sliders.’ In my head, I was like, ‘I’ve thrown two-seams literally my whole life.’ That and my curveball. What they wanted just didn’t play for me, either mentally or in terms of outcomes."
Love that part, where Gray just offhandedly remembered midstream, during another question, another dumb thing the Yankees did.
After the Yankees got Gray out of New York by any means necessary, he and Reds pitching coach Caleb Cotham began to collaborate seamlessly in 2019, linking up for an 11-8 season with a 2.87 ERA and 205 strikeouts in 175.1 innings pitched.
The only good news here? It sounds like Gray might be willing to come back to the Yankees, now that a new regime is involved in shaping their pitchers. It's wholly embarrassing, though, that his reputation (as well as a golden opportunity) was mangled in 2017-18 because the team brass decided to treat every pitcher as a carbon copy of one another.
Nice to see Jorge Mateo doing well, too.