The Rockies announced Wednesday that they’ve reinstated right-hander Jon Gray from the 10-day injured list and called up infielder Colton Welker for his Major League debut. Righty Antonio Santos was also recalled to the MLB roster. In a trio of corresponding moves, the Rox put right-hander Chi Chi Gonzalez on the 10-day injured list with a strained oblique, placed righty Robert Stephenson on the paternity list and optioned infielder Joshua Fuentes to Triple-A Albuquerque.
Gray returns to the club after a minimal stay on the injured list due to inflammation in his right forearm. It was a somewhat ominous diagnosis at the time, given the pronounced struggles Gray endured in the month of August, but a swift return is good news both for the club and for Gray as he nears his first foray into the free-agent market.
To this point in the season, Gray has posted a 4.13 ERA with a 23.1 percent strikeout rate, a 9.8 percent walk rate and a 49.9 percent ground-ball rate in 126 1/3 innings of work. Those solid numbers come in spite of a disastrous month of August, wherein Gray yielded a 6.55 ERA in 22 innings and lasted fewer than five innings in three of his five appearances.
Both Gray and the Rockies have made their mutual interest in some kind of extension known, though the recent injury hiccup could have some impact on the potential for a deal. At the very least, the Rockies likely want to see how Gray responds to 10 days of downtime before determining how to proceed. They reportedly intend to issue a qualifying offer to Gray, but it’s also possible the two sides work out a mutli-year deal at a lesser rate. Gray, of course, could also see what the market has to bear from other clubs upon receiving a QO from the Rockies. Players have 10 days to accept or reject their QOs, and they’re free to talk to other clubs during that time.
Turning to Welker, the 2016 fourth-rounder is getting his first look at the big league level. He’s long been ranked among the better prospects in a generally thin Rockies system, currently sitting eighth among their farmhands at FanGraphs, 20th at MLB.com and 23rd at Baseball America.
Welker has been limited to just 23 games and 93 plate appearances at the Triple-A level in 2021. He’s spent much of the year on the restricted list due to an 80-game suspension issued in May upon testing positive for a banned substance (dehydrochlormethyltestosterone). He’s one of several players to have pushed back against suspensions for trace amounts of the DHCMT long-term metabolite — picograms, in most cases — though to this point all suspensions under such circumstances have seemingly been upheld. (The Wall Street Journal’s Jared Diamond took an in-depth look at the situation last August.)
In his limited sample of work this season, Welker has been productive. He’s slashed .286/.378/.476 with three homers, five doubles, a triple and a 12.4 percent walk rate against a 20.7 percent strikeout rate. He’s spent all of his time at third base, though some scouting reports on Welker feel his range (or lack thereof) will eventually push him to first base. The Rockies don’t currently have a clear long-term answer at either corner infield position, so Welker seems likely to get a chance to prove he’s capable of seizing one of those two spots.