PHILADELPHIA – Josiah Gray is an All-Star. It’s the first time the young right-hander has received the honor.
He will represent the Nationals in the 93rd Midsummer Classic next week in Seattle. Joining him from the organization will be top prospects James Wood and Brady House in the Futures Game.
It’s a significant movement as the Nats’ future will be recognized during the Festivities at T-Mobile Park.
Gray, of course, was a part of the first major trade the Nationals made in 2021 to kickstart this rebuild. Now, almost two years later, he’s a major league All-Star. It’s especially impressive when you look at the ups and downs he endured last year during his first full major league season.
The All-Star honor is very special to Gray individually. But it also means a lot to his teammates and the organization as a whole.
Here’s a sampling of leftover reactions to the news that Gray was named an All-Star (and that Lane Thomas and Jeimer Candelario were not) from the man himself, manager Davey Martinez, rotation-mate Trevor Williams, fellow pitcher Kyle Finnegan and teammate Stone Garrett …
Anyone you're looking forward to meeting at the All-Star Game?
"Ah everyone, man. It's going to be so cool just to see all the guys there. I know the Home Run Derby is a spectacle, just being able to see those shots. Just to meet Aaron Judge or getting to shake hands with Mike Trout or Shohei Ohtani, just to cross paths with those guys ... Cause I've faced them a few times, but just to see them up close and personal and kind of be on the same (can't hear word) will be really cool."
Surreal that you're in that mix for this?
"Yeah, I think any time you're a first-time All Star, it definitely hits you a little bit. So I'm going to try to pick the brains of guys in the clubhouse, see what their experiences were, how it worked for them. Just embrace the moment. That's going to be super cool and I'm just really looking forward to it."
Is this extra motivation for the second half?
"Yeah absolutely. With or without this selection, I knew I just have to keep it going. Having a good start is good, but you have to show up to the ballpark the next day ready to go for the next one. That's the mentality I've gotten better at this year. You can have a good start and have that be what it is, but you have to show up for the next start and that's always good. It's a little bit of extra motivation, absolutely. But I don't think I would have lost the motivation, anyway, if I was selected or not."
What has clicked pitching-wise?
"Just selection, usage, just being smarter out there, leaning on my stuff. Keeping guys off balance a little bit better. Being a little bit more unpredictable, throwing more strikes, more quality pitches. Just a culmination of things and it's really been successful. But like I said, the work doesn't stop here. I have three more months-plus to go. Just looking forward to the next start here on Wednesday and going from there."
How has the process of adding pitches been this season?
"It's been fun. Just to see what I can do with a baseball. I think when I got up here in 2021, I was so hellbent on my fastball's an elite pitch that got me to the big leagues. But it's getting hit all over the park. So it kind of took me a second to adapt to that. So last year, mixing in some things later in the year and going into this past offseason, I said, you know what? If I can throw these certain pitches in certain counts, I can be that much of a better pitcher. I look at guys like Yu Darvish, Chris Bassitt, Joe Musgrove, just guys that have full arsenals and they have their one outlier pitch. But they have an array of other pitches that they throw that keep hitters off balance. So for me, I said, you know what? If I want to play this game for a long time, it might be something that I have to do. That's where the introduction of the cutter came from, leaning on the sinker a little bit more, introducing a sweeper a few weeks ago. Just to create a fuller arsenal, it's been great so far. I know the work's not done, but the results are promising."
What pitch is next?
"Um ... not a knuckleball, but I think developing the changeup. I've thrown a few the last two outings. Just finetuning that and getting it to where if Keibert calls it in a 2-2 count I can throw it, just like I did to Ohtani earlier in the year. So that's probably the next thing."
What does this rebuild/process mean to you?
"Yeah, it means a lot. For us to be a young team that a lot of people don't expect much from. We don't take that lightly. We want to go out there and show that we can play baseball, too. A lot of guys in this clubhouse have been acquired through trades or free agency or waivers or whatever it may be. So there was a team before that got rid of us, I guess you could say, so we kind of have that chip on our shoulder. We want to go out there and show we can play ball. To be one of the earlier guys in this rebuild, to continue to progress, it means a lot. Keibert has been looking great, Lane's been awesome, CJ, MacKenzie, all those guys have been really good this year and I think we have the grassroots of something really big here. Along with key additions like Trevor and Jeimer, Dom, I think we have something really special here. It's a lot of fun when we win and it's a really special group. I look forward to every day and we want to prove ourselves right."
What’s it like for first guy from the trade to be All-Star?
“Yeah, it's awesome. You've got to give a lot of credit to our scouting department for looking at these guys, watching these guys, putting them on the radar. We traded two potential Hall of Famers to get him and he's been stepping up. And that's awesome to see. I don't think he lets anything really bother him when it comes to being traded for Max Scherzer. I think he just goes out and he wants to help us win, which is great.”
How was it seeing Gray so emotional?
“He really looked like he was a bit shocked. Obviously, I had him come up and address the team and he was good. But he was definitely emotional.”
What about Thomas and Candelario getting left out?
“I think they both deserve an opportunity to go and play and represent the Washington Nationals. But more for them. Those guys have really been the two guys that have really, offensively, done unbelievable for us. They come up with big hits. Lane's done well, he's done well on both sides of the ball. Candy's been amazing. Another big home run today. So hopefully they look at these two guys. If anything happens, they look at those two guys and say, "Hey, we'll take these guys.' But they're my All-Stars. I know that.”
Would you be OK if Gray pitched in the game?
“Yeah, honestly, I wish he could pitch the first game back. But I'll talk to him. I don't want him going crazy. If he pitches one inning, that would be great. But that should be good. If he pitches an inning, it'll be kind of like his bullpen game so should be good.”
What’s it like to see a young player named an All-Star?
“I mean to see JoJo last year as a visiting player and seeing he was throwing well, but he wasn't having the success that he should. And then seeing him make adjustments this year, seeing him make adjustments starting in spring and then how it carried over into the season, he deserves it. He's one of our best pitchers. He's one of the best pitchers in the National League. And I'm glad he's getting the recognition that he deserves.”
What has been impressive about the adjustments he’s made this year?
“He's truly a student of the game. He loves talking about pitching. He loves talking pitch grips, manipulating the ball and going from there. But for a guy like JoJo to get the nod with being a young guy, like this is just the beginning of his career. And it's hopefully the first of many All-Stars for him. I think this team is full of All-Stars. I think there's a few guys in this lineup that hopefully have a shot. But you go around our infield and outfield and our lineup you just see potential All-Stars. We have a lot of guys that are young in this clubhouse, guys that are going to become perennial All-Stars. And I'm looking forward to seeing what JoJo does in the second half and for the next few years.”
What was it like to share that moment with him?
“Gosh, I got to give him a big hug after. The timing of it with my start was a little tough. But I got to give him a big hug afterwards. Because everyone wants to be an All-Star. I mean, that's you play the game to win the World Series and to play the game as long as you can. But to be an All-Star, no one can take that away from you. It’s for life, no matter what. So, I'm proud of him. I’m proud of the work that he's done, and I know a lot of guys are excited that he's representing the Nationals next week.”
What was your reaction to Gray being named an All-Star?
“It couldn't happen to a better guy, a better teammate. He's worked his butt off all year long. He does everything that an All-Star player should do. And he goes out there and he competes and that's what we love about him. Every time he takes the ball, we got a chance to win the game. I don't think we would have the wins that we do without him. Every time he takes the ball, we feel like that's the day that we can get a win. And I think that's what an All-Star means to your team. And beyond that, just happy for him and his family. It's got to be a pretty exciting time, and to be a young player and get one that early is really cool.
What’s it like to see a piece from rebuild make an All-Star team?
“It's great to get a piece back like that and have him produce already like that and become an All-Star. The future's bright for Josiah and we're all super happy for him in the clubhouse. And I think as far as the prospects of the future years go, it's just something he can build off of. And now he knows. He's confident that he has the ability to be at that level. And we all trust him to pitch at an All-Star level. So, it's an exciting time for him and the team, and we look forward to seeing what you can do in the future.”
What does it mean to see Gray be named an All-Star?
“That's awesome. Anytime a guy goes to the All-Star Game, it credits their hard work they've been putting in during the season.”
What have you noticed about Gray in your first year with the team?
“His routine, you know? When he pitches, he has his routine. And when he's not pitching, he goes by his routine. For the whole season, he's been pretty consistent doing that. So it's good to see it pay off for him.”