Rays’ rookie Snell dares to pitch like a rookie

by Gary Shelton on June 17, 2016 · 0 comments

in general, Tampa Bay Rays

Friday, 6 a.m.

Are you sure David Price did it this way?

Time was, Price was a kid, too. Time was, the world wondered if he was ripe. Time was, he had done about everything he could do in the minor leagues.

And so, back in 2008, the Tampa Bay Rays brought him up. And in his first two games, both out of the bullpen, Price pitched in losing efforts. It was easy to wonder if the Rays had pushed him too hard. It was easy to wonder if he was ready.

Today, it would be easy to wonder the same thing about young Blake Snell, who spent most of Thursday looking like he might not have spent

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enough time in the minors. Oh, the experts love Snell and what he has done, although it should be pointed out that this year, his ERA in Durham was the highest it has been since 2014.

Snell lasted 10 outs, and he gave up eight hits. The Mariners got to him for five runs although, it should be pointed out, four of them were unearned. Still, the Mariners jumped on Snell like he was pitching batting practice. He said later he wasn't aggressive enough, which is one lesson. But is it the course required for graduation.

“Good stuff,” said manager Kevin Cash. “He was fairly erratic, I think is fair to say. They had a pretty good approach against him because from the side, it looked like he was featuring some pretty nasty weapons, but they were either laying off of it or not trying to do too much, or taking their hits. They pieced together a couple of good innings, they drove his pitch count way up, much higher than we would like, but other than that, I look forward to seeing Blake out there again.”

Are you sure James Shields started this way?

Back in 2006, Shields had yet to grow into the bulldog he would become. In his first game, he pitched five innings, and he gave up five earned runs in a loss. He needed to learn some things, too.

So where is Snell?

It's easy to suggest that, if the Rays' starting pitching had been what it should have been this year, it would have been better to let Snell cook at Durham. It's always wise to be conservative with pitching. But the Rays, two games under .500, need to make a quick move if they are going to get into the AL race. So Snell came up, and Matt Andriese went to the bullpen.

This is easy to say, too. Snell would have been a lot better if the Rays had played better defense behind him. Tim Beckham still looks like he's playing dodgeball at short. A team isn't going to win very many when it gives up four unearned runs. The Rays, and their history of run prevention, should know that better than anyone.

Are you sure Matt Moore started this way? Moore gave up two earned runs in a loss in his debut. Chris Archer lost his first three decisions. Alex Cobb had two no-decisions.

Only Jeremy Hellickson, whose big-league career didn't match his work in the minors, started well. He won a 1-0 game in his first start. He didn't keep it up, however.

With Snell, the challenge is to accept that a lot of great pitchers aren't great pitchers out of the starting box. He's going to take some lumps, and he's going to have to learn the league. But he's had decent enough stuff to get another start, and another one after that. The kid has a chance. He's just a kid.

“I feel like they were taking more, so I should’ve been more aggressive. I felt like my stuff was good, I felt like I had more at-bats where I was battling. I just feel like I should have attacked more. ... I felt, command, I want to be aggressive in the strike zone. I was feeling like I was trying to be too pretty, trying to nitpick everything, but something I can definitely learn from and get better.”
Look, everyone loves the kids. They are new and fresh, and life is in front of them. No one has ever seen them give up back-to-back doubles or throw a ball to the backstop.

But the truth is that it usually takes time.

That was true for Price. And Shields. And Moore. And Archer.

It's true for Snell, too.

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