Rays' top prospect allows one run over five innings vs. Yankees
By Nick Suss
NEW YORK -- Blake Snell gave up a single to Mark Teixeira and thought it was fun. One batter later, Snell almost gave up a home run to Alex Rodriguez. He thought that was cool.
This isn't how pitchers think. But not all pitchers are 23-year-olds making their MLB debuts at Yankee Stadium. Snell, the Rays' No. 1 prospect and MLBPipeline.com's No. 12 overall prospect, tossed five quality innings Saturday in his first big league appearance, allowing one run and two hits while striking out six and walking one in the Rays' 3-2 loss to the Yankees. He exited with the Rays leading, 2-1.
"I think when I first went out there I was more just looking up, just trying to see everything," Snell said of the experience. "Every time I went out I kind of just would look and just enjoy it. It was something I'll never forget for sure."
The first inning was rough on the left-hander, as he needed 24 pitches to get through five batters, allowed a run to score on a wild pitch and needed a leaping catch against the left-field wall by Desmond Jennings on a deep drive from Rodriguez to bail him out of the frame.
After that, however, Snell settled down and began baffling Yankees batters. He struck out the side in the second inning, buckling Brian McCann at the knees with a huge hooking curveball for the first out. All six of Snell's strikeouts came against veteran hitters, as he set down McCann and Chase Headley twice and Starlin Castro and Rodriguez once.
"[The jitters] were there. I didn't think they were. It was more like I was really anxious," Snell said of adjusting from the first to the second. "I was trying to do too much. But after that I feel like I kind of got into my groove. From what I did, you can say [I got over them]. But yeah, I felt more confident. I didn't feel as anxious out there."
Snell set down 12 of the 14 batters he faced after the first inning, half by strikeout. His strikeout approach to lefties and righties was significantly different, as his four strikeouts against right-handers (Rodriguez, Headley and Castro) came with fastballs, three of which hit 95 mph, while his two strikeouts against the lefty-hitting McCann came with his knee-buckling 73-mph curveball.
Snell said he thought his slider was breaking a little bit too much to be used consistently, limiting him to his fastball and his curveball against lefties and the ability to mix in a changeup against right-handers. Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey, however, said he was impressed by all four of the young southpaw's pitches, as well as his composure on the mound. Hickey even went as far as to compare Snell to David Price, the former Rays left-hander who made his Major League debut at Yankee Stadium on Sept. 14, 2008. Price allowed two runs over 5 1/3 innings in that game.
Whereas Price has a more "steely" demeanor, Hickey sees Snell as more of a "carefree" pitcher. And despite the personality differences, the comparison in stuff is there.
"Their debuts were pretty similar, and if you are going to tell me their career paths are going to be pretty similar too, I'll take that in a heartbeat," Hickey said.
Nick Suss is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.