Bray starting to put it together for Reds
SARASOTA, Fla. -- For most big league bullpens, two lefts do make a right. Most, if not all, relief corps these days have two left-handed relievers in them.
The Reds are no different, of course, and the plan heading into Spring Training was to start the season with free-agent acquisition Arthur Rhodes and holdover Bill Bray. It seemed like it would be a point of stability for the pitching staff.
That train got derailed almost from the get-go when Bray had to deal with shoulder tendinitis at the start of camp. Then it was a hamstring injury that kept him off the mound. He's been healthy since March 15 and has a string of three straight scoreless appearances. But he hasn't completely looked like the guy who was a vital cog of this bullpen with a 2.87 ERA in 63 appearances in 2008. With all of the time he missed this spring, the time was fast approaching where his readiness for Opening Day would be an issue.
"That's a question right now," manager Dusty Baker said after Bray's outing Saturday. "He did a good job for us last year. His velocity [on Saturday] was down 5-7 miles per hour. You don't know if he was overthrowing, which happens, or if indeed there's something that might not be right with him. He's been checked and they can't find anything."
Bray was back on the mound on Sunday and may have allayed some of those fears with his inning of work. It's not that results were exceptional -- he gave up an unearned run on two hits -- but his stuff seemed to have a little more sizzle to it and, more importantly to his long-term success, it was not nearly as elevated in the strike zone as it had been in previous outings.
"I felt a lot better," Bray said. "I know the last couple of outings I've really been jumping and rushing to home plate. I was leaving a lot of pitches up and outside to right-handed hitters. I tried to slow myself down and felt I had a lot more success, at least throwing strikes, and when I missed, I missed down in the zone. That was a big change from the last couple of times I was out there.
"Everything feels great. It's just taken me longer than I hoped to get everything clicking."