Originally posted on Fox Sports Ohio  |  Last updated 3/11/12
GOODYEAR, Ariz. It would be easy for Bill Bray to throw his hands in the air and say, "Why me? Why put myself through this? Is there something else I can do?" That, though, isn't in Bray's make-up and is part of the reason that when he is healthy he is a guy you want on the mound when it it decide-time in baseball games. Uh, that's when he is healthy. And that has been the biggest obstacle facing the 6-3, 228-pound left-handed relief pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds. For the third straight year, Bray has been unable to participate with his teammates early in the exhibition season. This time it is a groin injury that is holding him back, but he takes the positive approach by saying, "At least this time it isn't an arm injury. It can always be worse." In 2010, it was an elbow problem that led to Tommy John surgery. And in 2011 he had to take it slow and easy to build his arm back to speed after the surgery. But he accomplished that mission and ended up leading the 2011 Reds in bullpen appearances with 79, second most in the National League. So, the Reds were counting on him mightily for this season, a left-hander to complement fellow left-hander Sean Marshall, acquired in the off-season. Over the winter, Bray was part of a Major League All-Star team that toured Taiwan, a five-game exhibition in which Bray recorded saves in two games. He came to camp full of vim and vigor, but that quickly evaporated the first days of camp when he pulled a groin muscle and is still nursing the injury. "It's really an annoying thing," he said. "I have no idea on a timetable to get back out there, but I plan to be ready for Opening Day, that's for sure." His optimism is admirable, but manager Dusty Baker says the clock is ticking at an accelerated rate as to how much time Bray will need to fulfill that promise. "You want him to get some innings in and you want him out there pretty soon," said Baker. "It's not dire yet, but if it goes another week or 10 days then you are pushing the envelope as far as getting ready. "You can cram to get at-bats, send guys to the minor leagues to get at-bats, but you can't cram innings for pitchers," he said. "Then you aren't only concerned about his groin, but you are concerned about his arm." Bray, though, believes he can get ready in minimal time, groin permitting. "As soon as I'm over this, I'll be able to ramp up quickly," he said. "I don't think I need a lot of innings. Fortunately, being a reliever, that's not something I need. I don't have to build up a pitch count. I can get to 35 in a hurry, but if I have to throw 20 in a game, that means I'm in trouble. "The trick with this groin thing is not to do it again," he said. "The last thing I want to do is create more problems with it, especially since it is my push-off leg and that makes it very difficult to push off and throw as hard as you can when you can't use your groin." Baker is dealing from past history, almost ancient history, in dealing with Bray, or any groin injury to a pitcher. "If I know Billy, he is really distraught because the last thing he wants to do is hang out in that training room," said Baker. "He was on the disabled list a long time to get back to where he was last year. "You have to be very careful with groin injuries, because that's so tough on pitchers," Baker added. "I remember talking to Don Newcombe (former Dodgers pitching great) and he told me he pressed it, came back too early from a groin injury, and that's what ended his pitching career. "After that, he couldn't push off, made it tough, so since he told me that years and years ago, I've always remembered that, so I'm as conscious of a pitcher's groin injury more than anything. But back then there was the training, the medical treatment, the rehab programs and the machines they have now to overcome such a thing." And right now, Bray is using any and all of the modern methods to make the pain go away so he can reclaim his rightful place in the middle of the bullpen.
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