After 'whirlwind' start to '24, Ray ready to impact Giants

January 27th, 2024

SAN FRANCISCO -- The new year has brought change aplenty for .

Five days after Ray was acquired by the Giants in the Jan. 5 trade that sent Mitch Haniger and Anthony DeSclafani to the Mariners, he and his wife welcomed a daughter to the world. The ensuing weeks have been "kind of a whirlwind" for Ray as he's started getting to know his new team and helping his family get settled with the new addition before Spring Training is in full swing.

All the while, he's been rehabbing what he termed a "brand-new elbow" after undergoing Tommy John and flexor tendon surgeries last May.

"Everything's feeling good, elbow's feeling great, body's feeling great," Ray said on a Zoom call on Friday, speaking with the media for the first time since his trade to San Francisco. "Really excited to be working with the training staff here. They've already helped me out a ton, so super thankful for that."

Ray is expected to be out until after the All-Star break, and he said he's bounced back well from last year's procedures to reconstruct his left elbow. The 32-year-old southpaw will begin throwing out to 120 feet on Saturday, and he hopes to be on a mound at some point during Spring Training.

Although it will be some time before the 2021 American League Cy Young Award-winner will be able to make an impact for the Giants on the field, Ray's veteran presence could be a boon for a rotation that is expected to feature at least two rookies in top prospect Kyle Harrison (MLB Pipeline's No. 20 overall) and Keaton Winn (Giants' No. 16).

The more experienced members of San Francisco's rotation are excited to have Ray on board as well.

"You're getting a not-very-far-removed Cy Young winner, great clubhouse guy," right-hander Alex Cobb said recently. "You pair [Logan Webb] up with a flamethrowing lefty in [the] top of the zone, just a completely different look, you're looking at a really good 1-2 punch. … You can never have enough pitching, as we saw last year and the year before."

Said Webb: "I'm just excited to pick his brain."

Even though there is risk in bringing in a pitcher who's recovering from Tommy John surgery, Ray fits the bill in many senses for the Giants. He and Cobb -- who will also miss the beginning of the 2024 campaign after undergoing left hip surgery on Oct. 31 -- could be difference-makers as "midseason additions that you don't have to trade for," as Webb put it. 

Ray's track record speaks for itself. He made only one start in 2023, but he recorded a 3.71 ERA over 189 innings for the Mariners in '22. The lefty has pitched more than 170 innings in each of his past three full seasons, excluding the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign. If he can provide that kind of coverage once healthy, that would be key for a team whose starters ranked last in the Majors in innings pitched in '23.

That's not to mention Ray's career 28.9 percent strikeout rate and his elite ability to get swing-and-miss when he's at his best.

"We definitely wanted to add … elite pitching, guys who can kind of impose their will on the competition," president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said recently. "Between the trade for Robbie and now bringing Jordan [Hicks] in, we feel like we've gotten a couple of key pieces."

Ray has three years and $73 million remaining on his contract, though he can opt out after the 2024 season. How he acclimates to a new organization and performs once he returns will no doubt factor into whether he exercises that clause.

As he continues to adjust to all of the recent changes in his life -- new baby, new team, new elbow -- the forthcoming opt-out is not top of mind for Ray.

"I've had nothing but good experiences since I've been here," he said. "I've had nothing but good interactions with the training staff, with the front office, with Farhan, with Bob Melvin and Bryan Price, getting to meet those guys and spend a little time with them. … My main focus is just getting healthy first before I can make any kind of decision like that."