Rockies-Padres preview

SAN DIEGO — One pitcher is 28 and has worked 104 2/3 innings this season. The other is 24 and has worked 145 2/3 innings.

One is facing an innings limit to his season.

And it's not the one you'd expect from the age and numbers.

Padres left-hander Christian Friedrich faces his former Colorado teammates and prized right-handed Rockies starter Jon Gray Saturday night at Petco Park.

The Padres are trying to find ways to limit Friedrich's innings between now and the end of the season, although the former Colorado pitcher seems stuck in a five-man San Diego rotation for the moment with right-hander Jarred Cosart trying to rebound from strains to both his right groin and right hamstring suffered Wednesday.

While Friedrich maintains he is ready to pitch out the season, Padres manager Andy Green reiterated recently that his staff is “closely monitoring Friedrich.”

The issue with Friedrich is his workload this year compared to last season when he worked only 58 1/3 innings in 68 appearances out of the Rockies bullpen while rebounding from several health issues. In 20 appearances (19 starts) for the Padres this season, Friedrich has worked those 104 2/3 innings.

The numbers don't lie. Although he was skipped in one turn of the rotation at the end of August, Friedrich has seen his earned run average rise in 11 of his last 14 starts. And over his last two starts, Friedrich has allowed nine runs on 13 hits and seven walks while completing just 9 2/3 innings.

Friedrich, who has also lost nine straight decisions, is 4-11 with a 4.99 ERA going into Saturday's game. The Padres are 6-13 in his 19 starts.

Gray, meanwhile, is 9-7 with a 4.51 ERA in 25 starts in his first full major league season. Gray was the Rockies' first-round pick (third overall) in the 2013 draft.

“I like everything I've seen from Jon,” Rockies manager Walt Weiss said recently of the progress made by Gray.

Gray will be facing the Padres for the fourth time this season. Thus far, he has a 1-1 record with a 2.25 ERA against the Padres (five earned runs in 20 innings). In two career starts at Petco Park, Gray has a 2.77 ERA.

Gray's 153 strikeouts are the most in Rockies history for a rookie pitcher and the 10th-highest total in franchise history for any pitcher in a single season. His 9.45 strikeouts-per-nine-innings average is the highest mark in franchise history for a Rockies starter.

In two starts against the Padres at Petco Park, Gray has 23 strikeouts in 13 innings — so that count and average could climb Saturday night.

Gray is coming off a loss Sept. 4 at Arizona when he allowed five runs on seven hits in seven innings. Four of those runs came in the last inning.

“I don't see signs of Jon being fatigued or wearing down at this stage of the season,” said Weiss. “His pitches are still sharp. His velocity is good.”

And like many Rockies pitchers over the years, he has had success at Petco Park.