SURPRISE, Ariz. -- D-backs left-hander Robbie Ray called it "a step forward." He prepared for it with a couple of longer bullpen sessions in which he worked toward fine-tuning his mechanics and timing.
This is the spring he attempts to build on a tremendous 2017 season that included his first All-Star appearance and his emergence as a key contributor in one of baseball's best rotations.
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Ray threw 55 pitches in 3 1/3 innings, allowing one earned run and striking out six in Arizona's 7-2 victory over the Royals on Friday afternoon.
"It felt a lot better," he said. "Timing was better today. Overall, pretty happy with it. Obviously, still have a little bit of work to do."
Paulo Orlando homered off Ray on his final pitch of the day. He was at his best in the bottom of the third, when the Royals had two runners on base and the top of the order coming up.
Ray struck out Alex Gordon on a 95-mph fastball, then got Jonathan Jay looking on a knee-buckling curveball. He ended the inning by getting Jorge Soler to fly out.
"Obviously, you don't want to let guys on base, but it's nice to get some work out of the stretch, too," said Ray, who walked two and allowed two hits. "It was encouraging to come out of that with those guys on base. It's a process. Spring Training is a time to work on things and build on that success."
D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said Ray's commitment to building on success was part of what made his 2017 season so impressive.
"Usually when young players have success, they don't know how to accept that, embrace it and continue to grow and learn," Lovullo said. "Robbie didn't seem to let that affect him. He, at times, was overmatching very good offenses, and he never let it affect him. He had a very good sense of the direction he wanted to go in, and we want that to continue this year."
Medlen making another comeback
Right-hander Kris Medlen is hoping there's a spot for him in the D-backs' bullpen as he continues to work his way back from a second Tommy John surgery.
Since pitching 197 innings and compiling a 3.11 ERA for the Braves in 2013, Medlen has made just 21 appearances in the big leagues. Now 32, he feels his stuff has never been better.
"To have an opportunity to make a team is what I've been wanting," he said. "I just need the game reps. After three years, there's still some rust there in what I want to do to get guys out. Sometimes I think something's going to be there, and it's just not. It's a guessing game for me right now, in terms of the consistency I need."
Medlen pitched in his fourth spring game on Friday, allowing a run in the ninth inning. He has given up seven earned runs in six innings and is still working his way back into a comfort level.
"Everyone's telling me the stuff's good," he said. "I'm just learning how to change my approach. I feel like, as a starter, I forced myself to throw my fastball a lot early in the game to establish that. Coming out of the 'pen, it's about getting outs. It's not about establishing anything. It's throwing strikes.
"I think you can only go so much on my track record. Can I pitch up here? I think yes. But I haven't done it in a few years. I just want an opportunity to show I can still come in and be competitive."
Boxberger back on Opening Day track
One day after his first Cactus League appearance in two weeks, reliever Brad Boxberger said he'll be ready when the season opens.
"I felt great yesterday," he said Friday. "I feel good today. It's just a matter of keep building up and keep going. You're cautious about everything this early in the spring. There's plenty of time to get ready. As a reliever, you don't need to build up innings, you just need to be able to go out there every day and compete. I know the end goal is to be ready to go March 28."
Lovullo is sorting out his late-inning options, with Archie Bradley, Yoshihisa Hirano and Boxberger all in the mix to close games.
"I've kind of done it all," Boxberger said. "It's just a matter of what Torey wants me to do and how he wants to run the bullpen."
Jarrod Dyson was feeling a day after making his first outfield appearance -- six innings against the Brewers on Thursday -- as the D-backs bring him back cautiously from offseason core surgery.
"We're going to give him a couple of days off and then ramp him up for a couple more starts before the off-day [on Tuesday]," Lovullo said. "He said he felt fantastic, which was a really good sign for us."
Catcher Chris Herrmann doubled and homered on Friday, raising his spring batting average to .417. Even if the D-backs keep Jeff Mathis to back up starting backstop Alex Avila, Herrmann's ability to also play outfield and first base could help him make the Opening Day roster in a third-catcher/utility role.
The D-backs will be going for their sixth straight win Friday when Taijuan Walker gets the start against the Royals at Salt River Field. The 1:10 p.m. MT matchup can be seen live on MLB.TV.