Luis Gonzalez: Robbie Ray needs to improve at putting batters away

Jul 27, 2020, 3:21 PM
Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Robbie Ray throws a pitch during the first inning of a baseba...

Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Robbie Ray throws a pitch during the first inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres in San Diego, Saturday, July 25, 2020. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)

(AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)

Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Robbie Ray only pitched 3.2 innings in his season debut on Saturday.

That’s a sample size of one, but it doesn’t portend well in a season in which the pitcher is trying to improve on a 2019 that saw him go seven innings only one time.

Former Diamondbacks outfielder and current front office staff member Luis Gonzalez joined Arizona Sports’ Bickley & Marotta on Monday and mentioned Ray specifically in summarizing the team’s first weekend back on the field.

“For me, I’m concerned with Robbie Ray,” Gonzalez said. “He throws hard velocity. I know he’s had conversations with Randy Johnson. Randy — and I think Robbie’s the same — he’s a strikeout pitcher, but where he gets in trouble is he can’t put a guy away. He gets him 0-2 and next thing he’s 2-2 and the guy’s fouling off three or four pitches. Where Randy was a guy where when he got a guy 0-2, he finished him. He didn’t waste time kind of nibbling around or trying to get him to chase something bad.”

In Saturday’s fourth inning, Ray’s last of the ballgame, the number of pitches he threw to each batter were as follows: 6, 3, 5, 6, 6, 6, 7. In 2019, he averaged 17.58 pitches per inning pitched, the fourth-worst in Major League Baseball. He also had the second-worst walks per nine innings rate last year at 4.34, but his strikeouts per nine innings rate was 12.13, the third-best in MLB.

“If you got a dominant fastball or, like Randy, a dominant slider, you gave it to him early and you sat him down,” Gonzalez said. “And I think that’s what he’s got to get that mentality instead of trying to get two pitches quick for strikes and then you start nibbling.

“And to be an elite pitcher and No. 1, you’ve got to be able to go deep into games and he hasn’t been able to do that. We’re hoping he can figure out and get on that streak where he can go into the sixth, seventh and eighth inning and you don’t tax that bullpen.”

This is a contract year for Ray, who was an All-Star in 2017 with a 2.89 ERA, but since then his ERA has been 4.21.

“I think he tries to nibble and try to make that perfect pitch,” Gonzalez said. “Where if a guy’s not catching up to his fastball, then don’t even worry about throwing a breaking ball. Just keep throwing that heater.

“He’s a good pitcher, but he’s just got to have that mentality of finishing guys off early and not trying to nibble around, because that’s where he gets in trouble.”

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Luis Gonzalez: Robbie Ray needs to improve at putting batters away