Ray among Jays to benefit from AFL
Toronto hurler solid while returning from right shoulder injury
TORONTO -- Robert Ray was a surprise addition to the Blue Jays' pitching staff in 2009, earning an unexpected promotion to the big leagues in May. His brief stint with Toronto ended in injury, but Ray managed to put himself firmly on the club's radar.
This fall, Ray took part in the Arizona Fall League and showed that the right shoulder injury that sent him to the disabled list and shelved him for much of the season was no longer an issue. Come Spring Training, the right-hander will be looking to put himself in the mix for another chance on the big league stage.
Ray -- a seventh-round selection by the Blue Jays in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft -- went 2-1 with a 4.81 ERA in seven starts with the Phoenix Desert Dogs in the AFL this offseason. Over 24 1/3 innings, the 25-year-old righty compiled 25 strikeouts against seven walks, allowing 16 runs (13 earned) on 34 hits.
After joining the Jays in May, becoming one of four rookies to make their Major League debut with Toronto in 2009, Ray went 1-2 with a 4.44 ERA in a four-start tour in The Show. His lone win came on May 16, when Ray held the White Sox to one unearned run in an impressive eight-inning outing in Toronto.
Beyond ace Roy Halladay, who could be traded this offseason, the Jays' only lock for a rotation job appears to be lefty Ricky Romero. Two leading candidates for other starting roles are righty Shaun Marcum and Marc Rzepczynski. Depending on what happens this winter, Brett Cecil, David Purcey, Scott Richmond, Casey Janssen, Brad Mills and Ray, among others, could be in the running for the fifth spot.
Here's a look at how other Jays prospects performed in the AFL:
David Cooper, first base: In 19 games with the Mesa Solar Sox, the left-handed-hitting Cooper hit .231 (18-for-78) with one home run and five RBIs. Cooper -- the 17th overall selection in the first round of the 2008 Draft -- finished with five doubles, six runs scored, six walks and 18 strikeouts.
Brad Emaus, second base: Emaus, who impressed the Jays during his time in big league camp last spring, hit .315 with one homer and 10 RBIs in 16 games for Phoenix. Emaus -- an 11th-round pick by Toronto in the 2007 Draft -- added three doubles, nine runs scored, seven walks and a .391 on-base percentage.
Reidier Gonzalez, pitcher: Gonzalez, who was added to the Blue Jays' 40-man roster last week, went 2-0 with a 3.38 ERA over seven games, including one start, with Phoenix. The right-hander struck out 11 and walked six over 16 innings, in which he allowed eight runs (six earned) on 19 hits. Gonzalez -- a 19th-round pick by the Jays in the 2005 Draft -- logged one shutout inning in a 5-4 loss to Peo Javelinas in the AFL title game on Saturday.
A.J. Jimenez, catcher: Jimenez -- a ninth-round pick by the Jays in the 2008 Draft -- hit just .157 (8-for-51) with one homer and eight RBIs over 14 games with the Desert Dogs. The catcher ended with one double, one triple, five runs scored, three walks and 15 strikeouts.
Adam Loewen, outfield: Loewen, who will be entering his second season in Toronto's system -- where he is working on transitioning from pitcher to position player -- hit at a .200 (14-for-70) clip, with two homers and nine RBIs in 19 games with Phoenix. He added one double, 10 runs scored and nine walks, but struck out 32 times along the way.
Darin Mastroianni, outfield: Over 13 games with the Desert Dogs, Mastroianni hit .250 (11-for-44) with four RBIs. He finished with one double, two stolen bases, eight walks and 10 runs scored with a .364 on-base percentage. Mastroianni was selected by Toronto in the 16th round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.