Robbie Ray takes first step toward Arizona Diamondbacks starting rotation

Mar 3, 2016, 5:32 PM
Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Robbie Ray throws against the Colorado Rockies during the fir...

Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Robbie Ray throws against the Colorado Rockies during the first inning of a spring baseball game in Scottsdale, Ariz., Thursday, March 3, 2016. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

(AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Considered the frontrunner to land the fifth spot in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ starting rotation, Robbie Ray did nothing to dispel the notion in his first outing of the spring.

The 24-year-old left-hander tossed two scoreless innings in the D-backs’ Cactus League home opener, a 6-5 loss to the Colorado Rockies in front of 7,295 at Salt River Fields on a sun-drenched Thursday afternoon.

Ray allowed a leadoff double to the first batter he faced and then retired six in a row, including back-to-back strikeouts of Tom Murphy and Brandon Barnes to end the second inning.

Ray got ahead of both Murphy and Barnes 0-2, before Murphy swung and missed at a changeup and Barnes couldn’t catch up with a 94-mph fastball, the seventh pitch of the at-bat.

“I pounded it in on guys,” said Ray, who finished with three strikeouts. “I was able to mix in my off-speed. The changeup was really good today. I was getting some bad swings on that and also my slider. I think that plays off of fastball command, just going in on guys and letting them know that I’m here.”

Facing one batter over the minimum in his two innings of work, Ray threw 35 pitches, 22 for strikes, six of which were first-pitch strikes, including a 95 mph offering to Carlos Gonzalez in the first.

Three pitches later Gonzalez chased a slider to become Ray’s first strikeout victim.

Ray constantly hit the mid-90s on the radar gun, topping out at 95.

“It’s early in spring, I’m not worried about velocity right now,” he said.

More importantly for Ray, who is battling Archie Bradley and Zack Godley for that final spot in the rotation, is getting ahead and staying ahead of batters. Too many times last season, Ray let hitters off the hook after jumping out to 0-2 or 1-2 counts, which elevated his pitch count and prevented him from going deep into games.

“Don’t let up. You don’t get complacent on the mound,” he said. “It’s attack mode no matter what. I think that’s the main thing is regardless of it’s a strikeout or a ground ball, just get ahead and put them away. That’s the main focus.”

Added manager Chip Hale: “That’s what we’re definitely looking for is commanding both sides of the plate, and he can be very successful.”

Ray made 23 starts for the D-backs in 2015, going 5-12 with a 3.52 ERA, the fourth-best mark ever by a D-backs rookie starting pitcher.

“I had success last year, so obviously I have some confidence from that,” he said. “I just go out every day and pitch like I know how to. You can only control that one pitch and you can’t control the result of it, so you just control what you can control and that’s making a quality pitch; and if a guy hits it, the guy hits it, but if you get him out, great. You can’t control what the other guy is doing.”

Penguin Air

Arizona Diamondbacks

Merrill Kelly #29 of the Arizona Diamondbacks delivers a first inning pitch against the Detroit Tig...
Jake Anderson

Tigers SS Javier Baez’s grand slam gives Diamondbacks 4th straight loss

The Tigers only needed one swing of the bat to get enough runs to beat the D-backs 5-1 in front of 22,064 fans at Chase Field on Friday.
2 days ago
Alek Thomas #5 of the Arizona Diamondbacks hits a double during the third inning of a baseball game...
Jake Anderson

D-backs OF Alek Thomas making early case for NL Rookie of the Year

One of the bright spots for the D-backs this season has been the ascension of OF Alek Thomas, who is making a case for NL Rookie of the Year.
14 hours ago
Outfielder Corbin Carroll #2 of the Amarillo Sod Poodles runs to second base during the game agains...
Alex Weiner

D-backs assistant GM: No timeline for top prospect Corbin Carroll

Amiel Sawdaye did not want to put a timeline on top prospect Corbin Carroll, who is batting .318 with 18 home runs in Double-A this year.
3 days ago
Josh Rojas #10 of the Arizona Diamondbacks cant make a diving stop on a single hit by Austin Nola #...
Associated Press

Arizona Diamondbacks’ pitching, defense struggles in loss to Padres

The Arizona Diamondbacks allowed eight earned runs and committed two errors in a 10-4 loss to the San Diego Padres on Wednesday.
4 days ago
Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Madison Bumgarner throws during the first inning of a baseball game ag...
Jake Anderson

D-backs’ Madison Bumgarner reaches MLB milestone with 2,000 strikeouts

Madison Bumgarner on Wednesday struck out the 2,000th batter of his career to become the 86th pitcher in MLB history to accomplish the feat.
4 days ago
Arizona Diamondbacks' David Peralta points to the crowd as he rounds the bases after hitting a home...
Arizona Sports

Diamondbacks OF David Peralta a late scratch once again vs. Padres

D-backs outfielder David Peralta was a late scratch from the starting lineup Tuesday due to back tightness, the team announced.
4 days ago
Robbie Ray takes first step toward Arizona Diamondbacks starting rotation