With a greater understanding of pitching, D-backs’ Robbie Ray is finding success

Jul 8, 2015, 4:03 PM | Updated: 4:04 pm
LISTEN: Robbie Ray, D-backs pitcher

Robbie Ray did not begin the season in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ starting rotation.

He’s well on his way to finishing there, though.

The 23-year-old left-hander who was acquired in the offseason in the deal that sent Didi Gregorius to the New York Yankees has posted a 2.16 ERA in eight starts, striking out 38. Opponents are batting just .217 off of him, and with even a little bit of run support, could be garnering some consideration for National League Rookie of the Year.

It’s quite a change from where he was last season, struggling to 1-4 record with an 8.16 ERA in 28.2 innings with the Detroit Tigers.

“I think it’s just understanding myself as a pitcher, not doing too much,” Ray told Burns and Gambo on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Wednesday when asked what’s changed for him. “And learning how to self-coach myself during the game, not inning-to-inning or batter-to-batter, but pitch-to-pitch.

“That’s been something that’s been big for me, is learning how to step off the mound and kind of analyze pitch-to-pitch.”

Whatever Ray has done, it’s working. His statistics put him in line with some of the best young hurlers the organization has had early in their careers and for a team whose rotation was a question entering the season, the lefty is doing an excellent job of providing some answers.

It just took a little while, as Ray did not make his first start for the team until May 6, in spot-duty as part of a double-header. It was not until nearly a month later, on June 4, where he found his way into the rotation for good as he replaced an injured Archie Bradley.

Ray hasn’t looked back since, and says now beginning the season in the minor leagues after having a chance to earn a job in spring training wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.

“I knew I had some stuff I needed to work on,” he said. “I needed to work on my breaking ball and continue to work on my fastball command. So I understood going back to Triple-A and I knew what I needed to work on, and I went down there and went to work on it. Felt good about what I was doing.”

At this point, everyone feels pretty good about what the player who in 2013 was rated as the No. 5 prospect in the Washington Nationals’ organization is doing. Though there figure to be some bumps in the road, Ray has looked every bit a pitcher who can have success in the big leagues for a long time to come.

With him solidifying himself as a part of the rotation along with the return of Patrick Corbin, it seems as though Arizona’s staff — which has been shaky at times — could be ready to settle in.

And as anyone who knows baseball will tell you, a quality starting rotation can lead to some pretty big things. Entering play Wednesday the D-backs were 41-42, five games behind both the NL West-leading L.A. Dodgers and the Chicago Cubs, who currently hold the second Wild Card spot.

“We’re excited,” Ray said. “We’re coming up on .500 now, on our record, and though our record doesn’t show, we’ve been playing really good ball lately. The team’s hitting.

“Pitching is contagious, I like to say. One guy goes out there and throws the ball well, it makes you want to throw well. It’s good, healthy competition. So it’s been really good.”

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With a greater understanding of pitching, D-backs’ Robbie Ray is finding success