Ray Black

Ray Black kept faith in himself, saw the light at the end of the tunnel

rayblackus.jpg
USATSI

Ray Black kept faith in himself, saw the light at the end of the tunnel

Ray Black was drafted by the Giants in the seventh round of the 2011 MLB Draft. His career then took a long pause. Black didn't start his minor league career until 2014, three years after turning pro. 

"Sittin' in Arizona is tough, especially the first two years of pro ball," Black said Saturday on MLB Radio Network. "I think Joe Panik was a guy I was drafted with and he made it to the big leagues before I was playing in A-ball." 

Panik made his MLB debut on June 21, 2014 and played 73 games for the Giants that season, batting .305 and won a World Series ring. At that time, Black was in the second month of his minor league career, pitching in Low-A for the Augusta GreenJackets. With his 100 mph fastball, Black struck out 64 batters in 31.1 innings for the GreenJackets. And then the command issues and injuries piled up. 

"I always try to see the light at the end of the tunnel and I kept faith in it," Black said. "I truly believe that there was no way I was given the ability to throw one hundred miles per hour and fizzle out in A-Ball, fizzle out in Double-A. I always thought there's gotta be a reason I'm going through this. There has to be more." 

Black made his big league debut this year for the Giants on June 7. At the time of his debut, he was 28 years old and seven years removed from getting drafted. 

"Looking back, to be honest, I don't know if I'd want to do it all over again," Black said with a laugh. "Day to day, it was like, ok this is the task at hand. I'm going to get healthy. I'm gonna come back and I'm gonna do it again and it seemed like every milestone I hit, I had a setback.

"I committed to the University of Pittsburgh, I had Tommy John surgery. I got drafted by the Giants, I had shoulder surgery. I got put on the 40-man roster, I had elbow surgery. It was just like one step forward, two steps back. But my career was still progressing at least throughout that whole time." 

The long road to San Francisco gave Black a bumpy start in the bigs. As he lit up the radar gun, the Cardinals lit him up for three earned in 1/3 of an inning, walking two and giving up a three-run shot to Matt Carpenter. His next time out two days later, Black showed his dominant repertoire with a perfect inning against the Cubs, including two strikeouts. 

Ray Black's blazing fastball catches eyes, but advanced stats love his breaking ball

rayblackus.jpg
USATSI

Ray Black's blazing fastball catches eyes, but advanced stats love his breaking ball

SAN FRANCISCO — For years, Ray Black’s name has come with a few extra words. When the right-hander got into a game in spring training, or was discussed by the Giants, it was always “Ray Black, who has a fastball that has hit 104.”

The heater has gotten Black to the big leagues. But to stay here, he’ll have to do more than light up the radar gun. As intimidating as 100 mph might look when it flashes across the scoreboard, big league hitters will light up even the best fastball if they know it’s coming. That’s why Black’s second appearance was so encouraging. 

Black had given up three runs in his debut, one of his fastballs sailing deep into the seats. 

But he felt much more settled as he took the mound Tuesday, sandwiching two sliders around a 98 mph fastball to get ahead of Willson Contreras 1-2. Naturally, Black knew how he wanted to finish the All-Star off. Nick Hundley, his veteran catcher, had other ideas. 

“I shook him once,” Black said Wednesday morning, laughing. “He put down the same sign and let me know, ‘Hey, this is the pitch, kid.’”

Black wanted to throw a fastball. Hundley insisted on a curveball, and Black delivered a 79 mph beauty that dropped right at the bottom of the strike zone. Contreras froze, and then slowly walked back to the visiting dugout. The Cubs learned a lesson about the rookie right-hander. Black did, too. 

“I think a lot of times guys will always resort to their best pitches,” he said. “Guys will say that if they get beat they want to get beat on their best. For me, I’m a fastball thrower and guys know it’s coming. But in that situation, to trust a guy like (Hundley) behind the plate and understand the count and the situation, you just (have to) trust the secondary stuff there.”

In a traditional way, the secondary stuff is not as sexy. Black will always be known for the fastball that sat 98-99 in his first two outings and certainly will tick higher as he gets more comfortable up here. But we’ve moved into the spin-rate era, and Statcast loves Black’s secondary stuff. The curveball to Contreras had a spin rate of 3174 RPM, which is a level hit by just three other Giants pitchers this year: Chris Stratton, Sam Dyson and Pierce Johnson. He later threw a curve to Kyle Schwarber, called a ball, that had a spin rate of 3336 RPM. Only two curveballs thrown by Giants this season — one each by Stratton and Dyson — have had higher spin rates.

It’s an extremely small sample, but Black certainly has the makings of a strong secondary pitch that will keep hitters from loading up on his fastball. Black was this week’s guest on The Giants Insider Podcast and you can hear much more about his repertoire and long path to the big leagues by streaming it here or downloading it on iTunes here.

Giants trade Jackson, Gearrin and prospect to Rangers; promote Duggar and Black

Giants trade Jackson, Gearrin and prospect to Rangers; promote Duggar and Black

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants shook up their roster in a massive way Sunday morning, trading two veterans to the Texas Rangers and promoting two of their most exciting prospects. 

Right-hander Cory Gearrin and outfielder Austin Jackson were shipped to Texas, along with a prospect, and the club added right-hander Ray Black and outfielder Steven Duggar to the active roster. 

The trade essentially boils down to a salary dump, with a nice prospect attached to facilitate the Rangers, who helpfully took on Matt Moore's contract back in the offseason. The Giants sent right-hander Jason Bahr to Texas in exchange for accepting Gearrin and Jackson, neither of whom had a role in San Francisco anymore. 

Bahr, 23, was the organization's fifth-round pick in last year's draft and had a 2.55 ERA at two levels this season. He had allowed just three runs in three starts since a promotion to San Jose, and the Giants were excited about his potential, but this is the cost of trying to get under the CBT line. The Giants attached Bahr so the Rangers would take on the remainder of the contracts. Gearrin is owed about $800,000 and Jackson is only a quarter of the way through a two-year, $6 million deal. 

The trade should allow the Giants to easily stay under the CBT number, and could provide some financial wiggle room as they look to add to the roster before the July 31 deadline. In exchange, the Rangers gave up a player to be named later or cash.

The in-house additions might be more exciting than anything that comes via trade. 

Duggar, 24, is the organization's best defensive outfielder and was batting .272 at Triple-A. He should see plenty of time in an outfield that has been without an everyday left fielder. The Giants could move Gorkys Hernandez over and allow Duggar to roam massive AT&T Park.

Black, 28, has a fastball that has touched 104 mph and has been dominant this season since returning from injury. He has 38 strikeouts in 21 2/3 innings for Triple-A Sacramento.