Ducks Lose Cate

CENTRAL ISLIP, NY— The Ducks endured losing its staff ace when Ken Ray’s hot started landed him a minor league contract with Cleveland’s organization in May.

While the Ducks didn’t win the first half division crown, quality pitching propelled the club to a first-place start in the second half. But the Ducks will need to demonstrate resiliency again after the Blue Jays signed Troy Cate to a minor league deal Friday.

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Cate earned the ace moniker following Ray’s departure, recording a team-high seven wins. The lefthander was 7-2 with a 3.23 ERA that was lowest among starting pitchers. The left-hander won his fourth straight start and held opposing batters to a .224 batting average against in 78 innings. Cate will be assigned to the Eastern League’s Double-A New Hampshire franchise, becoming the fifth Ducks this season to sign with an affiliated organization.

“We couldn’t be happier for Troy and wish him the best in this great opportunity,” Ducks manager Gary Carter said. “He was really dialed in as of late and we’re excited that he will have the chance to get back to the big leagues.”

Cate’s signing continued to deplete the Ducks original starting rotation. Ray is still in Indians farm system while Opening Day starter Brad Halsey was released July 1. The front office hasn’t sought much outside help. Reliever Cory Doyne is the only pitcher signed this month, leaving pitching coach Dave LaPoint and the rest of the coaching staff to look for in-house replacements.

“He’s pitched well all year and has been one of the better pitchers in the league,” pitching coach Dave LaPoint said. “For us as a team, it was crippling because right now they aren’t a lot of names out there that we can replace him with.”

Ray started 4-0, earning victories in all but one of his starts before going to Triple-A Columbus May 27. The former Atlanta Brave is struggling for the Clippers, starting 2-5 with a 8.67 ERA. Like Ray, Cate is also an ex-big leaguer. The one-time Cincinnati Reds hurler will be looking to return to the majors for the first time since 2007.

“We’ve had to get on the horn and try to call as many people as we can,” LaPoint said. “We need a guy who can throw strikes like Troy did. We can’t hire any more guys who are going to be wild and keep taxing the bullpen.”

The pitching staff will get a rest thanks to Monday’s off-day after Bridgeport completed a three-game sweep at Citibank Park. The Ducks will look to regroup when it hosts first-half division winner Southern Maryland in a three-game series with the Blue Crabs trailing the Flock by a single game.

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