D-backs’ Robbie Ray works quickly in his Cactus League debut

Feb 26, 2018, 5:00 PM
Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Robbie Ray throws against the Cincinnati Reds during the first inning ...

Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Robbie Ray throws against the Cincinnati Reds during the first inning of a spring training baseball game Monday, Feb. 26, 2018, in Goodyear, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

GOODYEAR, Ariz. – For a first time out, the results could not have gone any better for Arizona Diamondbacks left-handed starter Robbie Ray.

“Well, I walked a guy today. I’d rather not do that,” he said.

OK, but that was the only blemish on Ray’s Cactus League debut against the Cincinnati Reds on Monday.

The D-backs won the game, 5-2 in front of an announced crowd of 2,129 at Goodyear Ballpark. Catcher Alex Avila, designated hitter Kevin Cron and right fielder Jeremy Hazelbaker each hit home runs. Hazelbaker’s was a two-run shot and his second homer of the spring.

Ray faced the minimum over two hitless and scoreless innings. He did walk a batter — which was then followed by a two-base throwing error on a pickoff attempt — but the runner was doubled off third base on a soft line drive hit to second baseman Daniel Descalso to end the first inning.

Included in Ray’s six recorded outs were three strikeouts, two of them swinging.

Ray was in and out after throwing 32 pitches, including 19 strikes and five first-pitch strikes.

“I felt pretty good,” he said. “I came into it just trying to establish my fastball command. I felt like I did a pretty good job of doing that.”

Added Avila, “He looked good. That glove-side fastball was pretty good today. He mixed in both breaking balls. I thought overall he looked really, really good.”

Avila was good, too. And not just with the bat.

With two outs in the second inning, Reds second baseman Dilson Hererra lifted a fly ball back behind the plate near the protective netting. Avila tracked the ball, and not realizing how close he was to the Reds dugout or hearing any warnings, made the catch as he tumbled over the railing.

“I didn’t try to dive into the dugout,” he said. “I just kind of got clipped on the right leg there because (the railing) kind of juts out twice. I didn’t really take the time to check it out beforehand. Good thing there was a net there.”

Ray waited for Avila, high-fived his catcher and the two walked back to the dugout together.

“I said, ‘Man, come on. You got to think better than that. It’s spring training.’ I was like, ‘What are you thinking?’ It’s good to see he’s alright,” Ray said, before adding, “That’s what he’s going to do. I mean, he hits a home run his first at-bat and then dives into the dugout to catch a ball. That’s pretty good.”

For Ray, despite coming off a career year — and an All-Star year at that, setting career-highs in wins (15) and ERA (2.89) while matching his career-high with 218 strikeouts — what is accomplished in March means very little.

“Results aren’t a huge thing in spring training,” he said. “It’s nice, but really, it’s about — today was just going out and trying to hone in that fastball command.”


— There is no chance first baseman Paul Goldschmidt plays all 162 games this season, even if he is healthy.

“He’s not a machine,” manager Torey Lovullo said. “We sometimes we think that he is because he’s so elite, but we have to be careful with his playing time and he’ll fall right in the same category as everybody else when it comes to rest.”

Lovullo added they would prefer Goldschmidt play between 155-160 games, though it’s a number that’s “subject to change but I think we’re going to pay a little closer attention to him because he’s so important to this team. We don’t want him to miss days.”

— Two more days. Outfielder Steven Souza Jr. must wait until Wednesday before making his D-backs spring training debut. He doesn’t want to wait, however, and lobbied Lovullo to be put in the lineup a day early.

“It was dinner time last night and I got a text from Steven and he said that, ‘I’m ready to go. Please, please, please put me in the lineup tomorrow.’ I told him that if he wanted to get his manager fired, that would be something I would agree to,” Lovullo said. “But under no circumstances are we going to come off the gameplan that we have.”

— The acting manager for the D-backs in Goodyear was bench coach Jerry Narron, who once upon a time managed the Reds. He was named Cincinnati’s skipper on June 21, 2005, and finished sixth in the NL Manager of the Year in 2006.

Overall, Narron went 157-179 in his two seasons in the Reds dugout.

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