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Arizona Diamondbacks: Robbie Ray remains in ‘a good place’

By Mark Brown
Mar 11, 2017; Salt River Pima-Maricopa, AZ, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Robbie Ray (38) throws in the first inning against the San Francisco Giants during a spring training game at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 11, 2017; Salt River Pima-Maricopa, AZ, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Robbie Ray (38) throws in the first inning against the San Francisco Giants during a spring training game at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports /
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Left-hander Robbie Ray of the Arizona Diamondbacks is working to improve secondary pitches and gain greater pitch efficiency

Throughout spring training, Torey Lovullo, manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, likes to refer to players “in a good place.” That description may intelligently fit left-hander Robbie Ray.

Coming off a season of mixed reviews, Ray’s quest for consistency and continuity remains directly planted on his radar screen. The mixed bag comes from Ray’s tremendous physical ability but, in contrast, his inability to harness that energy. Should these variables meet at a happy place, Ray could emerge as a reliable starter with economy of pitches

For now, Ray seems to struggle with command at times and has a continued tendency to elevate his pitch count and shorten time on the mound. In his last start against the San Francisco Giants on March 11, Ray showed that thrift of pitches and slid by the first inning with 16 pitches.

That included a two-out walk to Hunter Pence. In the second, Ray needed another just 16 to retire the side, and that frame included a lead-off double from Mac Williamson. In all, Ray lasted into the fourth inning, tossed 54 pitches and told Venom Strikes, he is, indeed, in a good place.

"The ball is coming out of my hand very good and I’m getting strikes with my off-speed pitches. My fast ball command is there but (during his last start March 11) they didn’t seem to hit the ball all that hard. Maybe I was tipping my breaking pitches. I’ll have to check the video on that."

For Ray to reach a certain level in production is critical to the Diamondbacks. The other left-hander under rotation consideration is Patrick Corbin, who has yet to impress this spring.

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Given the strong spring to this point from Taijuan Walker, who could rise as the number two starter behind Zack Greinke, Ray’s position as the third starter seems solidified. Then again, Walker has a history of strong outings in the spring and falter once the championship season begins.

Here in spring training, Ray seems patient with the evolution of his secondary pitches. There is no question relative his physical ability.

While Ray’s fastball is clocked consistency in the mid-90s, he harnessed that force into one of the major strike-out pitchers of the 2016 season.

Overall, Ray tied for ninth among major pitchers with the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard with 218 strikeouts. The major-league leader was Max Scherzer (281) of the Nationals.

For strikeouts per nine innings, Ray placed second among National League hurlers with 11.25 Ks. Also, Ray became only one of two pitchers in the modern era to record 218 strikeouts in less than 175 innings in a single season. The Cubs’ Kerry Wood recorded 233 Ks in 166.2 innings in 1998.

Next: Bradley stays in contention for rotation spot

Numbers aside, the upside for Ray is high. Should he be in a position to pitch deep into games, command his first pitch to each hitter for a strike and limit a batter’s ability to foul off a two-strike pitch, then the Diamondbacks should be in a position to reap considerable rewards.

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