It has been an incredible start to the professional career of Single-A Hagerstown Suns left-hander Robbie Ray.
Heading into tonight’s game at Greensboro, Ray has not allowed a run in 11 innings over two games. He has struck out 13 batters and walked just one. Opposing hitters mustered just one hit in his debut and only two hits in his second start on May 14. That works out to a ridiculous .081 batting average against Ray through a pair of starts.
Suns manager Brian Daubach says the difference between Ray’s debut and his second outing really got his attention.
“As good as his first start was, his second one might have even been better,” Daubach said. “Just the composure and the command he has for a young age is impressive. Hopefully, we can keep building off of that and we can stretch him out a little bit longer. He is fun to watch right now. The command of his pitches at such a young age is impressive.”
The Brentwood, Tenn., native has demonstrated a confidence beyond his years in his first two chances. After all, the 12th-round pick had made a verbal commitment to accept a scholarship to the University of Arkansas last year. Now, he is baffling hitters in the South Atlantic League. And Ray is only one year older than 18-year old phenom Bryce Harper.
If you ask Ray, he can’t explain the magical formula for why he is so good right now. But it may come down to simplifying his job.
“Honestly, I don’t know,” Ray said. “When I am out on the mound I just tune everything else out. It is just me and the catcher.”
Ray employs his fastball, changeup and slider to get through the order. Because he will make just his third career start tonight, Ray is at a 75-pitch limit as the Suns work on stretching him out.
Fellow Suns pitcher A.J. Cole was with Ray on Team USA, and they lived together during spring training, so it was a big deal when they both got the call to Hagerstown at the same time. Ray says the two pitchers work out together and compare notes after each bullpen session.
“It’s good, having someone you know, somebody you have been with before with Team USA,” Ray said. “It is definitely a plus having (Cole) here.”
Ray said the Team USA experience was big for his success now, because he faced some of the best hitters in world at the Olympic level.
“It helps my confidence,” Ray said. “We get to see the Latin guys. We know what they can do back (in the states). It helps winning the whole thing and winning the gold medal.”
Ray says even with all the early success, he still wants to improve his match-ups against left handed hitters.
“I am a little shy on the inside part of the plate with lefties, so I am working on that,” Ray said.
The lefty also wants to work on his pitch placement with the fastball and slider against left-handed hitters.