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Major Ray of hope in Blue Jay comeback

Major Ray of hope in Blue Jay comeback
Shortly before he met with the media yesterday after a clutch 2-1 win over the Chicago White Sox, Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston visited the lounge area of the clubhouse to perform a duty every manager enjoys.

Gaston sought out rookie right-hander Robert Ray and shook his hand to congratulate the 25-year-old on his first major league win.

"It was real special because he pitched one heckuva game," said Gaston, whose offence, blanked for the first seven innings, used a Vernon Wells steal and clutch RBI hits from Adam Lind and Jose Bautista in the eighth to push across the tying and winning runs.

"We won as a team, but that kid battled for us. He's getting a little better each time out."

That first big-league win probably wasn't in the cards for Ray just two weeks ago. He and lefty Brett Cecil were emergency call-ups to cover a rash of injuries to the starting staff. Even GM J.P. Ricciardi said at the time that the two call-ups "probably shouldn't even be up here (in the majors) at this point in time."

Ray, like Cecil, has pitched himself into more permanent status. Ricciardi and the Jays granted the two young pitchers several more starts because of their role in keeping the Jays atop the AL East.

"It's really good, and it's good to get the win as a team, but also to get called up here, then get your first strikeout is special, but that first win is what you want," said Ray, who wasn't even among the 10 potential starters the Jays considered during spring training.

Ray has accomplished what all raw rookies strive for: He throws strikes, stays within himself and doesn't try to do too much because of the pressure to produce.

Yesterday was his best outing in three starts, an eight-inning gem in which he allowed only three hits and one walk. Aside from a stolen base and a throwing error by catcher Raul Chavez that led to an unearned run in the first, he never allowed a runner beyond second base.

"You feel a lot more now (like you belong at the major league level), a lot more natural," Ray said. "It's good to know you can go out and pitch your game. At first you know you're here until the (injured pitchers) get ready, so the object was to give your team a chance to win. I guess that (vote of confidence from Ricciardi) means Brett and myself have done our jobs."

The Jays ran themselves into trouble on the basepaths early and placed more pressure on Ray to hold off the White Sox.

Bautista was thrown out trying to stretch a hard-hit single into a double in the second inning, while Marco Scutaro was cut down trying to leg out a triple in the third.

But Toronto's league-leading offence kicked into gear in the eighth when Wells hit a one-out single to centre and stole second. Lind then capped a tremendous 10-pitch at-bat against Scott Linebrink by doubling into the right-field corner to drive home Wells. Bautista followed with a sharp single to left to plate Lind with the winning run.

"I was just grinding," said Lind, who now has 32 RBIs, matching Aaron Hill for the team lead.

"On the pitch I hit (a low breaking ball), it wasn't a pitch to hit, but I kind of flipped it down the line. The way (Chicago catcher A.J. Pierzynski) was calling the game, he came out with a couple of heaters on the 3-2 count. In the back of my mind I got ready for a fastball, but I was also looking off-speed."

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: May 18, 2009

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