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Diamondbacks LHP Robbie Ray: ‘This is as good as I’ve felt’

Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Robbie Ray smiles in the dugout after throwing against the Arizona Diamondbacks during a spring training baseball game Thursday, March 5, 2020, in Surprise, Ariz. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Pitcher Robbie Ray once again represents hope that the Arizona Diamondbacks will over-achieve. It’s been this way since he broke out as an MLB All-Star in 2017 and the D-backs last made the playoffs.

Injury and inefficiency that kept him from going deep into games limited him to 24 starts and a 6-2 record in 2018. His ERA and WHIP in 2019 were 4.34 and 1.34, respectively.

After avoiding arbitration this offseason entering his final year of team control, Ray must use a shortened MLB season to earn his next day paycheck. He’s got the Diamondbacks buzzing about him just more than a week out from the 2020 opener, as he’s thrown 11.0 innings with one hit allowed and 17 strikeouts after a six-inning scrimmage performance Wednesday.

“I mean, honestly, the last two starts that I made have been pretty crisp. I don’t know — I feel really good. I don’t know if I’ve felt this good, honestly,” Ray told reporters over Zoom before doubling down on that.

“Physically, mentally … this is as good as I’ve felt all-around.”

Manager Torey Lovullo said Ray entered spring looking different. He maintained that after the coronavirus shut down Cactus League play in March and teams re-opened camp at their respective facilities across the country this month.

Ray’s work this offseason included mechanical tweaks for the lefty, who during his All-Star season was one of the best strikeout pitchers in baseball.

“I think he changed the arm swing a little bit. I think it’s a little shorter, a little more compact,” Lovullo said on a Zoom call. “He’s raising his hands over his head and it’s yielding some really good dividends. The bottom line is he put in all the work.”

Ray confirmed the throwing action changes. He said the aim is for his arm motion to be “more repeatable” in order to “get in the same spot” in the delivery.

“Consistency is key as a starting pitcher. Going deeper into game, you rely on that consistency,” he added. “It’s no secret that in the past I’ve walked a lot of guys.”

Of course, the success in a second season training camp matters little. But there could be worse news that a potential No. 2 starting pitcher entering a contract year during a 60-game season appears in top form.

Lovullo, who will be tasked with making decisions with more urgency during a shortened season, believes Ray’s word — that the pitcher is entering 2020 the best he’s ever felt.

“I’m going to jump right on board with that comment,” Lovullo said. “He’s never looked better at this period of time in a spring training setting. He’s come in extremely focused and ready to go. From Day 1 of the original spring training, he just had a different look in his eye. Not to say that before he wasn’t getting after it, but this one told me he was going to have a good season.”


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