About three weeks ago, Robbie Ray was carrying his son in his Dunedin, Fla., rental home when he arrived at the top of a staircase and took the first step without paying it any mind, as anyone would. “I mean, it's the stairs,” said the Toronto Blue Jays left-hander. “You walk up and down them every day.”
This time, however, something happened as he landed on the first step, his momentum suddenly falling prey to gravity’s pull. “I felt myself just go,” he remembered, and all he could do was try to find a way to protect his son.
“That was my No. 1 priority so, I rolled to the left and just kind of went down seven or eight stairs on my left side,” said Ray. “And it was definitely scary. I didn't think anything was super serious, but I definitely called the trainers and said I needed to come in and see them. Thankfully it just ended up being a really bad bruise.”
Ray’s son emerged unscathed, unlike the 29-year-old, whose throwing elbow bore the brunt of the impact. He only returned from the injured list Monday, picking right up from a strong spring training with five strong innings in a 3-1 loss to the New York Yankees.
The veteran lefty, averaging 94.7 m.p.h. with his fastball and feeling good with his curveball, didn’t allow a hit until the fifth, when he made his one big mistake, an 0-2 middle-middle 93.7 m.p.h. four-seamer that Kyle Higashioka sent 416-feet over the wall in right-centre.
Blip aside, it was a heartening 84-pitch effort for Ray, who held a dominant, right-handed heavy lineup in check while immediately showing the form that so excited the Blue Jays during the spring.
“I was pretty much built up, ready to go for the season, it didn't really take a whole lot (to rebuild the physical capacity),” he said. “Those first couple bullpen sessions I threw, I just really focused on my delivery, getting back to what it was before I had the injury…
“Tonight, it felt like everything pitch-wise was crisp and sharp.”
Higashioka’s two-run shot erased a 1-0 lead the Blue Jays scratched out against Gerrit Cole in the first, and the catcher, a burgeoning nemesis, stretched the Yankees’ advantage to 3-1 in the seventh, when he got Ryan Borucki for his second homer of the night.
Coming off a 15-run outburst Saturday against the Los Angeles Angels and Sunday’s rainout at TD Ballpark, there was more frustration in another tough night at the plate for the Blue Jays, even if Cole was shoving a fastball that sat 97 and his disappearing slider down their throats.
Bigger picture, though, if Ray can handle the rest of the league the way he kept the Yankees lineup under wraps Monday, it dramatically changes the complexion of the Blue Jays rotation.
“It would be great,” said manager Charlie Montoyo. “It would be really great because you've got (Hyun-Jin) Ryu and then you've got (Steven) Matz dealing, and if Ray pitches like that, you feel like you have a chance every day. That's what everybody wants so everybody feels really good about what Ray did today."