First rehab start a ‘good first outing’ for D-backs LHP Robbie Ray

Jun 15, 2018, 5:58 PM | Updated: 5:59 pm

(AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)...

(AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

(AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

PHOENIX, Ariz. – It had been nearly two months since Arizona Diamondbacks left-handed starter Robbie Ray last stepped on the mound in front of paying fans.

That it was just over 1,900 who showed up as compared to the 20-30 thousand typically in the seats to watch him pitch mattered little.

What did matter was how Ray felt, during and perhaps more importantly, after.

“I felt good,” he said Friday, back at Chase Field following a 46-pitch rehab start the night before for Single-A Visalia. “It felt good to get back on the mound and come away healthy. I think that’s the biggest thing. I felt good today, arm feels good. I just finished playing catch and no issues, so it was good.”

Ray, who has been sidelined since late April due to a strained right oblique, added he treated the start like a normal game. He threw all of his pitches — fastball, curveball and slider — and each one came out of his hand good.

“Pitch-count wise he got to where we wanted to,” manager Torey Lovullo said. “Execution wise he said he repeated his delivery and it was to be expected that it wasn’t going to be pristine and perfect so it was a good first outing for him and for us.”

In other words, the results were unimportant.

Ray’s final pitching line was not a good read. He allowed five runs, two earned, on five hits, including a pair of home runs, in 2.1 innings. He walked none and struck out three.

“It’s tough to gauge games like that because I think a lot of the hits that I gave up were in the first couple of pitches. There wasn’t really an approach per se. It just feels like you see that lot in rehab starts. Guys want to come out swinging, obviously, because they know that you’re going to be pumping strikes and who doesn’t want to get a hit off a big-league pitcher,” Ray said.

“It’s a little tough to get into a rhythm, but the main thing was I threw 46 pitches. The goal was 50 so I was right there and came away healthy.”

Ray also hit a batter in the head. It was the last batter he faced. Ray said he reached out to the player via text message after the game.

“Obviously I wasn’t trying to hit him on purpose,” he said. “I was just going in. He’s a shorter guy. Like I said, they were being aggressive. They were kind of ambushing me and what happened happened. I mean, it’s baseball. It sucks. It happened to me, too, so it can happen to anybody.”

Ray is scheduled to make a second rehab start — with a goal of 65-75 pitches — next Tuesday for Triple-A Reno.

To DH or not DH

There seems to be growing momentum to bring the designated hitter to the National League. It was a topic during this week’s owners meetings in New York.

If and when it does happen, count Lovullo among those who prefer the status quo.

“I enjoy the strategy of the National League. The more strategy, the more moving parts for me the better,” he said.

Before joining the D-backs in 2017, Lovullo had spent his entire big-league coaching career in the American League, where the designated hitter is used.

Yet the way Lovullo sees it, the offensive part of pitchers “is like the special teams for me. You can spend a lot of time on it and you’re going to be good at it and it’s going to make a difference and help you win some games and we pride ourselves on that. Our hitters take hitting very seriously.

“They execute the way they’re supposed to with advancing runners and we feel like it’s an added bonus for the athletic pitchers that we have and they make a difference in the game and they take a lot of pride in it,” he said.

“I would say I appreciate the National League-style of baseball and if I had to choose between the two, I would choose the National League-style of baseball with the pitcher hitting.”

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