Josiah Gray's First MLB Taste Was Memorable
Josiah Gray's first taste of big league life will never be forgotten—and probably never replicated.
The 23-year-old righthander was part of the Dodgers' postseason taxi squad, working out and traveling with the team throughout its march to the 2020 World Series title. That included a 24-day stay in the team's "bubble" at a luxury hotel near Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas.
"It was a really enjoyable time, and winning it all as well just made it that much more meaningful," Gray said.
"Two years ago I was at Division II Le Moyne College and here I am as part of the World Series-championship Dodgers. That experience is going to be with me always."
Positive as Gray's memories might be, the cancellation of the 2020 minor league season robbed him of the chance to build on his 2019 season. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound righty went 11-2, 2.28 while progressing to Double-A in his first year with the Dodgers after being traded from the Reds for a package that included outfielders Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp.
But 2020 brought uncertainty with the months-long shutdown of the sport and then the "Groundhog Day" quality of spending nearly three months working out at an alternate training site.
"No one wants to be facing the same team over and over for two-and-a-half months, with no progression beyond going back to (University of Southern California) the next day," said Gray, explaining that the challenge was "going out there and trying to find an extra reason why or extra motivation to want to get better that day."
One of the major challenges for big league teams in 2021 will be managing a pitching staff while playing in significantly more games than in 2020. The Dodgers have been proactive in handling the workload of their starting pitchers in the past and have used an average of 12 starting pitchers per year over the past eight years.
That should open the door for Gray to be more than an up-close observer of big league life in 2021.
— The Dodgers signed a pair of lefthanders with some big league experience to minor league contracts—Enny Romero and Mike Kickham. Romero, 30, has not pitched in the majors since 2018 but does have 137 games of experience with the Rays, Nationals, Pirates and Royals. Kickham, 32, had a 7.71 ERA in six games with the Red Sox last season after not pitching in the majors since 2014 with the Giants.
— The Dodgers organization has been hit with a number of losses over the past two months, topped by the deaths of Hall of Famers Tommy Lasorda and Don Sutton. Additionally, former hitting coach (and long-time NAIA La Verne (Calif.) coach) Ben Hines died in early January. Ben's son Bruce was recently named the Angels' first base coach. Former scouts Guy Wellman and Lon Joyce also died this winter.