BALTIMORE -- This time, the ex-closer needed a save.
The Orioles optioned Chris Ray down to Triple-A Norfolk on Thursday in the hope that he'll be able to iron out his command issues in a less pressure-packed environment. Ray, who missed all of last season whle recovering from right elbow surgery, said that he's had a hard time staying on point in big league game settings.
"I need to get my repetitions, get in there on a more consistent basis just so I can get my game back to where it was," he said. "I'm not naïve. I personally think I needed it anyways. Like I said, it's not doing me any good to throw once a week up here and just take up space in the bullpen."
Ray has posted a 9.39 ERA in his first 17 outings, and manager Dave Trembley has run out of situations that call for the erstwhile relief ace. Trembley's tried him in close games and blowouts, early and late, and has come to one unmistakable conclusion: Ray will be better off in the long run if he goes back to Norfolk.
"He needs to work in an environment that is going to give him an opportunity to succeed and work on his delivery and repeat it," Trembley said. "He's an end-of-the-game guy is what he is. That's the best way to say it. And right now, we're not able to find opportunities for him to go in at the end of the game."
Ray, who has 49 career saves, didn't allow an earned run in Spring Training but has had problems maintaining his command during the regular season. The right-hander said that his confidence isn't an issue right now and he's fairly certain that he knows what he has to do to get back to the big leagues.
"Things start going a little bit faster, your heart starts pumping more. I think it's a matter of just getting my mechanics to repeat and going out there and getting on a roll," Ray said. "When I went out there yesterday, I felt like I used like four different timing mechanisms to try to get myself so I get on top of the ball. During a big league game, you really can't do that. You have to go out there and just think about throwing strikes."
Trembley compared and contrasted Ray to Danys Baez, who had a similar injury but has come back without a hitch. The manager said that Baez has more life on his pitches and that Ray has nothing physically wrong with him. At this point, it's just finding a comfort zone and making sure Ray can stay in it as long as possible.
And true to form, Trembley told the reliever exactly that in a heart-to-heart conversation.
"I told him that's he's important to us, that he figures in our immediate and future plans, and it's in his best interests that he goes and gets some success and gets back here," said Trembley. "The guy is extremely competitive, and I have a tremendous amount of respect for the work he's had to do to recover from surgery."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.