PHOENIX — Robbie Ray had some good news for the Diamondbacks on Saturday.
“All I know is, I feel great,” Ray said.
All-Star Ray threw a 50-pitch simulated game at Salt River Fields, facing Yasmany Tomas among others, and appeared to take another step toward returning to a starting rotation that has not been the same without him.
The D-backs are 5-7 since Ray was forced to leave a July 28 start in St. Louis when he was struck in the head by a line drive in the second inning. He has been missed. Only Zack Greinke has gone as many as seven innings in a game since Ray went out, and the starters’ ERA in those 12 games is 5.56.
Ray is 9-5 with a 3.11 ERA, fourth in the NL behind Clayton Kershaw. Max Scherzer and Gio Gonzalez. He has 151 strikeouts in 118.2 innings, and his average of 11.5 strikeouts per nine innings is second only to Scherzer (12.33) among NL qualifiers.
Ray said he threw his entire repertoire in four innings Saturday and was particularly pleased with the shape and command on his breaking pitches, “because those things are feel pitches. They felt really good.” He pitched without a protective screen and said he had no trepidation about returning to the mound.
“It didn’t even cross my mind,” Ray said. “It was just go out there and throw the ball and pitch like you know how to. It was just another day on the mound.
“Really, it is all in your head. It just depends on what you think. For me, it’s part of the game. Even though it is such a small part of the game, it is part of the game and you have to understand it’s going to happen. If you take it like that and understand somethings things like this happen, accidents happen, you move on.”
The D-backs again will wait to see how Ray responds before settling a schedule, but it appears likely he will have a rehab start before returning to the rotation. Zack Godley is to start the final game of the Cubs’ series Sunday, and Greinke and rookie Anthony Banda would start the two home games against Houston on Monday-Tuesday if the D-backs stay in turn. In two starts while filling in for Ray, Banda is 1-1 with a 3.60 ERA, having given up four earned runs in 10 innings.
“My body feels great,” Ray said. “My arm feels great. Whatever they decide, I’ll go with that.”
Arizona manager Torey Lovullo was at Salt River Fields to watch Ray work.
“It was as good as I had hoped it would be,” Lovullo said. “He was aggressive with all of his pitches and got through it with a good feeling. He walked off the mound and said he felt great. That’s good new for us. We’re excited about that. As these things materialize and you are walking in unfamiliar territory, you have to take it day by day and piece by piece. … We want to see how his arm feels tomorrow.
“I think a (rehab) game where he can feel out how he is doing would be needed. We’ll come up with that as a group.”
Ray had been hit on the shin by a one-hopper and taken a line drive off his forearm, but this was new. He said he saw the liner by Luke Voit coming and knew he was going to be hit, so he turned his head to the side to avoid getting hit in the face. He was knocked to the ground but said the only unusual sensation was a loud ringing in his ears. The next day he reported feeling “kind of slow,” but that has gone.
“It took time for that motor skill to come back,” Ray said, “but never really had any headaches. No sensitivity to light. The major ones that guys usually have, I didn’t have them.”
“I do,” he said.