DETROIT--An unexpected pitching finger laceration sidelined Anibal Sanchez and led to him being placed on the 15-day disabled list. It gave Triple-A Toledo left-handed starting pitcher Robbie Ray a golden opportunity, which he was not expecting to get so soon after being traded to the Tigers.
"I was shocked. I didn't think I was going to get traded but I knew I was coming to a good organization," Ray said of being traded from the Nationals to the Tigers. (Thanks to Dana Gauruder, SportsXchange, for the quotes.)
But his pitching in Toledo impressed the Tigers, particularly Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, who referred to Ray's fastball as "sneaky. " When the time came for them to call on a spot starter to take on temporary duties while Sanchez was healing, Ray was a natural fit.
"I don't know if I'm anxious but I'm definitely excited. It's good to be here," Ray said. "I wasn't really expecting it this early in the season. I might be a little nervous in the first inning but I think I'll settle down."
The day that Ray got the call, he was in the middle of shopping for luggage. He admitted to the Oakland Press' Matthew Mowery that when he got the call he purchased a nicer piece that could accommodate a suit. It's one of those things you do when you get called up to the big leagues for the first time.
That first time is bound to give a young pitcher plenty to be nervous about, but it's something every player goes through and Ausmus recognized that. "He seems calm on the mound," Ausmus said. "He doesn't seem overwhelmed. He might be churning inside. He doesn't show it but I'm sure he'll have some nervous excitement."
"Hopefully he can keep that under wraps, so to speak, and not let it affect his pitching. But he's pitched well in Toledo this year and I hope he stays on track the way he has." (via Mowery)
Ray himself said that he's probably going to be both excited and nervous, particularly in the first inning. But Ray got some advice from his new teammates, amid the excitement of it all.
"Yeah, guys were telling me, 'When you're out there, just take a step back and look around, and take it all in, because you only get one debut,'" Ray said. "They said enjoy it, it's my major league debut. It's something I've been looking forward to, but I'm going to try to take a step back, and take it all in."
With Ray being called up, there was the question of who would be sent down to make room for him. While most would have preferred that Phil Coke be sent down, the likelihood of that happening was next to none.
Instead, following the Tigers' sixth consecutive win Monday night, Ausmus announced Jose Ortega had been sent to Toledo to make room for Ray on the 25-man roster. And earlier that day the Tigers had outrighted the contract of Jordan Lennerton to Toledo to place Ray on the 40-man roster.
Ray has compiled a 3-2 record and was sporting a 1.53 ERA while with the Triple-A Mud Hens. In 29⅓ innings pitched he has allowed only six runs (five earned) and one home run. While he had walked five batters, Ray has 21 strikeouts to date.