New Approach Pays For Ray

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Reliever Says He Has Learned To Pitch To Contact Instead Of Throwing Ball Past Hitters

August 27, 2009|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

MINNEAPOLIS -- Chris Ray's return to effective late-inning relief started with his getting healthy again. It continued with the realization that he could no longer blow fastballs by everybody.

"When I was in college and my early years of pro ball, I was able just to throw it by guys," said Ray, the Orioles' closer before he had ligament-reconstruction surgery on his right elbow in August 2007. "Now, I'm working more on pitching to contact. I'm not trying to go out there and strike everybody out like I had been in the past. I'm just getting that first-pitch strike and then just working the corners."

Armed with a new pitching philosophy, Ray has allowed only one earned run in his past 14 outings, a span of 17 innings. During that stretch since coming off the disabled list, his ERA has dropped from 10.24 to 5.70.

"It's been amazing," said Ray, who had one stint in the minors this year because of a demotion and another one on a rehabilitation assignment after spending more than three weeks on the DL with right biceps tendinitis.

"I had to learn how to pitch again. I was getting away with stuff in my rehab last year because they were young hitters, and I was getting away with things in spring training. But once I started to face major league-caliber hitters, it was a totally different story. It took me a long time to find my comfort zone and repeat my delivery."

Ray has mostly stopped throwing his four-seam fastball in favor of a two-seamer that moves more. In his past five outings, he has allowed two base runners in 5 2/3 innings.

"Since coming back from the DL, I've probably thrown two four-seam fastballs. I've never thrown a two-seam, but now I'm throwing all two-seamers," he said. "It seems they're putting the ball on the ground a lot more. I talked to [Danys Baez] about it and he said, 'I don't know how you can throw a four-seamer anymore in the AL East.' It doesn't matter how hard you throw; if balls are straight, guys are going to put the barrel on it.

"I'm not trying to throw as hard as I can. I'm relaxed and trusting my stuff. Before I used to go for the swing-and-miss. Now, I'm going for the swing-and-mishit."

Roster additions coming

The Orioles' roster can expand Tuesday, but president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail acknowledged that it will be difficult to make too many additions because of 40-man roster issues. Players have to be on the 40-man roster before they can join the big league club Sept. 1.

"It's going to impact what we can do in September," MacPhail said. "You want to add pitching so you can ease the load, ease the burden on those guys. You want to get position players here that can spell some guys that can probably use a day or two [off] for whatever reason. We have some flexibility, but we can use a little more."

The Orioles will call up at least one infielder, likely Justin Turner, and one outfielder, either Joey Gathright or Jeff Fiorentino. They'll add a third catcher, along with a couple of pitchers. Dennis Sarfate, Matt Albers, Alberto Castillo and the recently acquired Chris Lambert are expected be among the players who get considered for a promotion.

Pitching prospect Jake Arrieta and top infield prospects Brandon Snyder and Josh Bell are not expected to be among the call-ups.

So long, farewell

The Orioles played their final game Wednesday night at the Metrodome as the Minnesota Twins will move to open-air Target Field for the 2010 season.

The Orioles entered Wednesday night's series finale 63-73 indoors in the Twin Cities. In contests at the Metrodome, Cal Ripken Jr. is the franchise leader in games (111), hits (140), home runs (16), doubles (34) and RBIs (71). B.J. Surhoff has the highest batting average (.368) by an Oriole at the Metrodome. Among pitchers, Mike Mussina has the most wins (seven), Mike Boddicker has the most strikeouts (52) and Randy Myers has the most saves (six).

Around the horn

Center fielder Adam Jones (sore back) missed his third consecutive game, but Orioles manager Dave Trembley said he's optimistic Jones will play tonight. ... The Orioles are hoping Koji Uehara, who is on a throwing program at the team's minor league complex, will be able to rejoin the team the second week of September. ... Brian Roberts' streak of consecutive games reaching base ended at 26 as he went 0-for-5 on Tuesday. ... After batting third Tuesday, rookie Nolan Reimold has hit in every spot in the order except first, fourth and ninth. ... Infielder Ty Wigginton will answer questions from fans and sign autographs at noon today at the Inner Harbor's ESPN Zone.

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