Prior to a start in Miami last May, Diamondbacks lefty Robbie Ray was warming in the bullpen, struggling to hit his spots, when pitching coach Mike Butcher suggested a change.
“Butch was like, ‘Hey, just go out there and throw as hard as you can,’ ” Ray recalled. “That was probably one of the better games that I pitched all year. I left it all out there.”
It was also the sort of instructive experience that shaped the rest of Ray’s quasi-breakout year: For him, it was the beginning of the realization that he could put everything he had into every pitch and still have enough left in the tank to be effective deep into his outings.
“I always thought maybe I needed to save a little bit,” Ray said. “But I surprised myself that I was able to maintain that velocity throughout the game.”
For Ray, the 2016 season was both empowering and frustrating. He experienced the thrill of thoroughly dominating major league hitters for stretches at a time, seemingly throwing his mid-to-upper 90s fastball by guys at will. But he also suffered more losses and issued more walks than he’d have liked and failed to pitch deep into games with consistency.
His season was unique – somewhat historic, even – for both good and bad.
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