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Trim Ray surprised, happy to be with D-backs

@SteveGilbertMLB
February 23, 2020

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Robbie Ray made his Cactus League debut for the D-backs on Sunday afternoon against the A’s. That he was still wearing an Arizona uniform was a bit of a surprise, even to him. Ray, who will be a free agent at season’s end, was the subject of

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Robbie Ray made his Cactus League debut for the D-backs on Sunday afternoon against the A’s. That he was still wearing an Arizona uniform was a bit of a surprise, even to him.

Ray, who will be a free agent at season’s end, was the subject of trade rumors prior to last summer’s Deadline, and then again this offseason it seemed the D-backs might try to do the same thing they did when they dealt Paul Goldschmidt a year away from free agency.

Instead, though, the D-backs dealt Zack Greinke at the Trade Deadline and hung on to Ray. The pair were both in the clubhouse at Yankee Stadium when Greinke got the news he had been traded.

“He was shocked and I was shocked, too,” said Ray, who started his spring by striking out the side in the first en route to 1 2/3 scoreless innings in a 7-3 victory over the A's. “He was shocked for the same reason I was -- that he was traded and I wasn’t. We both thought I was gone and he was staying. The Trade Deadline I thought I was as good as gone. We were in it, but we were far enough behind where it looked like it was a real possibility that I was going to go somewhere. I was hearing it every single day. And it didn’t help that we were in New York at the Deadline and I had the New York media talking about me switching clubhouses in the middle of the game.”

The pair had developed a close friendship so that was a difficult day for Ray even though he preferred to stay in Arizona rather than be traded.

The D-backs got an offer for Greinke that they didn’t feel they could refuse, nabbing four of the Astros’ top prospects.

“To get those four guys for Zack, it was huge,” Ray said. “It helped us last year with [Josh] Rojas, but also down the line with [Corbin] Martin, [J.B.] Bukauskas and Seth Beer for the future. Those guys are really good prospects, so it was a no-brainer once you saw what we were getting back.”

The D-backs clawed their way back into the Wild Card hunt following the trade but came up a bit short. Heading into the offseason, Ray’s name was once again in rumors.

“The first part of the offseason I definitely thought there was a good chance I was going to be gone and then we made the moves that we made,” Ray said.

Chief among those moves was the surprising signing of free-agent lefty Madison Bumgarner.

That signaled to Ray that the D-backs were serious about competing again in 2020, so he believed they would hang on to him.

Ray spent the offseason shedding around 15 pounds to try to take some stress off his back.

“Last year I put on some weight and I don’t want to say it directly correlated to my back issue, but it probably certainly didn’t help,” Ray said. “So I just tried to get myself in better shape. The biggest thing was not losing my strength.”

So yes, Ray reported to camp this year in the best shape of his life, but he bristles at the suggestion that he did so because it’s a contract year.

“I hate the narrative of ‘now he cares because it’s his walk year,’” Ray said. “I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t care. I wouldn’t play this game if I didn’t care. I play every game as hard as I can. Just because I’m in the best shape of my life this year doesn’t mean that I didn’t care about the games I pitched last year or in 2018 or 2017. We all are competitors. We want to win every single thing we do. It doesn’t matter if it’s a baseball game or something stupid like who is the first one at the coffee shop. Like, I’m going to win that. That’s just who we are. I’m competitive in everything I do.”

Steve Gilbert has covered the D-backs for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB.