SHANNON DRAYER

Drayer: Robbie Ray as advertised in his Mariners spring debut

Mar 22, 2022, 5:38 PM | Updated: 5:46 pm

Check Robbie Ray’s first spring outing off the to-do list. And while you are at it, go ahead and put a star next to it. Ray’s Mariners debut was, in a word, impressive.

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“He had a good fastball, really good slider and certainly a great presence when he is out there,” manager Scott Servais said after the Mariners’ 5-5 tie Tuesday with the Cubs in Peoria, Ariz. “I’m really excited to have him as part of our group moving forward.”

Ray, who was scheduled to pitch just three innings, was given a fourth after being very economical with his pitches to start the game. In a shortened spring training with no more than four starts available to the starters, the extra up/down is important.

“The up and downs is kind of the real thing you are trying to get as far as getting ready for the season,” said Ray. “Going four innings, getting up and down four times, is huge.”

Also huge: the quality of pitches from Ray. He threw 57 pitches in his four innings, giving up two runs on one hit – a home run off the bat of Ildemaro Vargas that followed a walk – two base-on-balls and five strikeouts.

“I felt good about everything coming out,” Ray said. “Slider was really good. That’s about as good as it has ever been. Fastball command for the most part – walked the same guy twice, I should never walk a lefty, that’s something first time out. Getting used to being back on the mound but overall really good.”

The slider was particularly effective, and something Servais said Mariners catchers will need to be ready for.

“I think when Robbie Ray is out there, there are going to be 15 to 20 balls in the dirt that night,” Servais said. “You have just got to block that slider. (Catcher Cal Raleigh) did a good job.”

Servais enjoyed seeing the full effect of the fastball/slider combo with Robbie Ray on the hill in a Mariners uniform.

“It’s very deceptive,” he pointed out. “With the turn of the body, the hitter doesn’t see the ball come out, and he’s grunting and you feel like he’s throwing 100 mph. You look at the board it says 93-94, but it really plays up because it’s real deceptive and he tunnels the slider right off of it. Pretty good weapons to have.”

It has been a good week for the Mariners’ starters with Logan Gilbert expected to make his first outing Thursday. Marco Gonzales, Chris Flexen and now Ray were all able to throw three innings or more in their first start, which should go a long way in attempting to be at the 80-85 pitch mark once the condensed spring training ends and regular season begins. Before the MLB-instituted lockout ended, all three took the approach of getting ready as if they were in spring training aiming for an on-time start to the season, and it appears that has paid off.

Away from the starters, Servais liked what he saw from reliever Diego Castillo, who pitched one inning, allowing one hit while striking out a batter. In the lineup, Abraham Toro added two more hits to his spring total and is now 5 for 9 in Cactus League play.

“He’s very comfortable. He looks great at the plate,” Servais said of Toro. “He’s swinging the bat as well as anyone in camp right now.”

The plan is to play the switch-hitting Toro all over the field in 2022.

“It’s awesome,” said Servais. “If we have a hiccup somewhere, somebody gets a little banged up, you can slide him in, or it allows us to slide players around. And when you put that switch-hit bat in the order, it’s a nice weapon to have.”

The Mariners have their lone day off of spring training Wednesday, then return to Cactus League play Thursday against the Cleveland Guardians in Goodyear.

Mariners spring training radio schedule on Seattle Sports 710 AM

Date Starting Pitcher
Wednesday, May 18 @ 4:07 pm

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