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March 10, 2011 at 9:17 AM

Ray says he’s not missing a beat

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Among the many uncertainties on this Mariner team is the late-inning pitching situation.
The closer of the last two years, David Aardsma, is still recovering from hip surgery with no set timetable for his return.
So that has a few other guys competing for the spot until Aardsma returns, notably Brandon League, Manny Delcarmen, Josh Lueke and Chris Ray. League is probably the favorite.
But Ray, signed as a minor league free agent in January, has the most experience of that trio closing Major League games with 50 saves, most with the Orioles in 2006 and 2007 before an injury that required Tommy John surgery interrupted his career. He returned to full duty last year to pitch in 63 games for the Giants and Rangers in middle relief, saving two games.
And he says he feels as good as ever this spring even though he recently suffered a minor calf injury that relegated him to throwing in a simulated game on Wednesday.
“These last couple of days it feels incredible and it didn’t slow down my throwing at all,” he said this morning. “It didn’t affect me when I was throwing, so I continued to throw even though I wasn’t throwing in games. I had a bullpen and then a simulated game yesterday and it felt good, so the plan is to have one more simulated and then be back in a regular game.”
That may come sometime next week.
The reason for the simulated game is to get work without having to do things such as race over to cover first, which could aggravate the injury.
“Luckily it happened early enough in spring training and the season it’s not going to affect me,” he said. “I was just running, one of htose freak things. I’ve never even had a calf injury before, it was just something that happened. … I’m throwing 100 percent right now, so I’m not losing any time as far as arm strength or anything like that. It’s just more that you want to avoid the sudden bursts, running over to first base or something like that, so pitch in more controlled environments.”
Ray says the seemingly open competition in the bullpen was a major reason to become a Mariner.
“One of the main reasons I signed here is there are a lot of openings in the bullpen,” he said. “With Aardsma being injured for the first part of the year, there’s the opportunity to maybe try out for a late-inning role on a team, which is something I enjoy doing, so obviously that was one of the more attractive points of coming here.”
Ray, though, says he takes a pragmatic approach to his status with the team.
“I just try come in and make the ball club and don’t worry about what is going on around me and try to do the best I can to showcase what I bring to the table,” he said. “I believe I’m here for a reason, in a big league camp for a reason, so I just go out there and let my actions speak for themselves. I can’t worry about the decision-making process because I’m not part of it.”

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