A RAY-DEMPTION STORY
Robbie Ray has made peace with the home run he yielded to Yordan Alvarez in Game 1 of the ALCS. And after teammates played their roles in lifting someone they'd leaned on for leadership all season, Ray returns this season leaner, wiser and more determined than ever to help lead the Mariners to postseason glory.
"I've never had that feeling in my entire career," Ray told us. "Never left a game like that. I blamed myself, but teammates, (specifically) relief pitchers helped me through it. It not only allowed me to move on from it more quickly, I felt I'd gained a new perspective on the job of the relief pitcher and what they have to overcome."
"He's a pro," said Scott Servais of Ray, who developed into a reluctant team leader as last season progressed. So much so that it was Ray who the Skipper turned to for the first clubhouse player speech after the team ended the drought and earned their way into the playoffs for the first time in two decades.
And now Ray enters the new season like an unbridled storm--a new-and-improved waistline, a new-and-improved hairdo, a new-and-improved arsenal of pitches, looser pants, an established clubhouse presence and the same ol' grunt.
The former Cy Young Award winner won't have to win another major award to make his 2022 free agent contract hold up. If, in 2023, he avoids the big inning that plagued him last spring and can be fueled by the disappointment of last fall, the Mariners should get what they want out of Ray all season--a top of the rotation starter who takes the ball every fifth day, pitches deep into games, racks up innings and strikeouts (just as he did in 2022) and isn't even considered for a late-inning playoff relief appearance because he was too busy winning his postseason starts.