Lefty Robbie Ray of the Arizona Diamondbacks says he wants to perfect another pitch to land in the strike zone
Left-hander Robbie Ray of the Arizona Diamondbacks seemed to pick up right where he left off last season. Despite one of the top strikeout pitchers in the National League last season, Ray’s essential malady dealt with pitch count and command.
After nearly every start last season, Ray addressed that issue and always repeated the need for significant improvement in that area. That prevented the native of Brentwood, Tenn. from going deep into games, and resulted in numerous early exits.
Before Ray’s first start of the spring Wednesday, manager Torey Lovullo told Venom Strikes the main issue facing Ray was his inability to put hitters away. Plus, two-strike foul balls help to elevate his pitch count.
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Hoping to address the question of a prolonged presence on the mound, Ray’s effort Wednesday against the Chicago White Sox was just the opposite. Regarding the issue of pitch count, Ray walked three of the first five hitters he faced in his first inning of work and ended with exactly 35 pitches. Following catcher Giovanni Soto’s groundout to third that opened the second inning, Ray reached that 35 pitch barrier and exited after 1.1 innings.
In missing the strike zone, Ray was always high and away to right-handed hitters. Both the Sox lead-off hitter Adam Engel and Tyler Saladino, hitting fifth in the order, managed to foul off pitches with two strikes. Despite his high count, there was little concern.
"“I’m not worried at all about that,” Ray told Vernon Strikes after his outing Wednesday “I felt good and with the first time out, it’s about feeling good and feeling strong. Right now, I want to land another pitch in the strike zone, and I’m working on that.”"
From a physical standpoint, nothing is afflicting Ray. Last season, he recorded 218 strikeouts, and that tied for fourth in the National League with the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard. Overall, he labored through an 8-15 season and registered a 4.90 ERA for 32 starts.
“My goal is to go out every time, turn in quality starts and give my team a chance to win,” Ray continued. “As a pitching staff, we’re all out to have a better year.”
Here’s your opening day pitcher
Manager Torey Lovullo announced Zack Greinke would make his spring debut on Friday at Salt River against the Dodgers (1:10 p.m.). That puts Greinke on track to open the season April 2 at home against the San Francisco Giants.
"“Zack will be on a five-day routine and no different from any other pitcher,” Lovullo told Venom Strikes before Wednesday’s game. “We’ll let him get ready on his own time frame. Right now, it’s about his build-up toward opening day.”"
Counting back from opening day, Greinke, who will miss one start in spring games, remains on target to likely open the season against the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner in Chase Field.
Take a day off
Before Wednesday’s game, Lovullo told Venom Strikes there had been discussions with his staff and with first baseman Paul Goldschmidt about playing time.
Lovullo made it rather clear that Goldschmidt will not start all 162 games and put the number around the mid-150s.
“We’ve talked, and (Goldschmidt) is reluctant to come out of the line-up,” Lovullo continued. “That’s a testament to all great players that they want to play all the time.”
At this point, Lovullo said Chris Herrmann, David Descalso, and Jason Pridie would each get a serious look as Goldschmidt’s back-up. As the season progresses, Lovullo told Venom Strikes that Descalso, who will play second base for Team Italy in the upcoming World Baseball Classic, will likely get the bulk of playing time in Goldschmidt’s absence.
More of the White Sox
Chicago’s 3-2 victory over the Diamondbacks before 2,896 at Camelback Ranch on Wednesday was the first of two spring games between these teams. The Sox pay a visit to Salt River this Sunday, March 5 at 1:10 p.m.
The Sox also engage the Diamondbacks during the regular season. Chicago will be at Chase Field for a three-game set, May 22-24.
On Thursday, the Diamondbacks have a split-squad doubleheader, and both games are slated for Salt River. In the afternoon at 1:10, right-hander Archie Bradley takes on Padres’ lefty Christian Friedrich. In the 7:10 night game, righty Shelby Miller makes his second spring appearance and faces Cubs’ right-hander Jake Buchanan.
For Friday, Greinke’s opponent against the Dodgers at Salt River will be former Diamondbacks right-hander Brandan McCarthy.