Rays Option Pitcher Blake Snell to Triple-A Durham

May 13, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) walks to the dugout after being relieved during the sixth inning against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
May 13, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) walks to the dugout after being relieved during the sixth inning against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports /

Struggling throughout the season, trying to find his trust and command with his pitches, Blake Snell will now get that opportunity under less pressure at Durham to turn things around.

There comes a point in time when you have to throw in the white towel and make a move that you might not necessarily want to do, but need to do. It has finally reached that point as the Tampa Bay Rays optioned struggling left-hander Blake Snell to Triple-A Durham following his start against the Red Sox on Saturday afternoon.

It does not matter how many minor league awards is attached to your resume or how fast you climbed the ladder to reach the major leagues. What matters is when you have reached the majors it is because you have earned the promotion, as you are ready to face the next challenge in your career.

In each stop throughout the minors, Snell excelled so it became logical that the next step of his course would be the majors. Blake Snell earned the promotion in April 2016 based on his pitching performances throughout the minors, specifically in 2015 when he struck out 163 in 134 innings with 53 walks pitching to a combined 15-4 record with a 1.14 ERA pitching for Charlotte (A), Montgomery (AA) and Durham (AAA) – Snell was ready to face the new challenge.

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At the time of his promotion in April, Snell was pitching for Triple-A Durham, where he would arrive with a 1-1 record and a 2.51 ERA with 21 strikeouts over 14.1 innings (three starts). His inauguration to the majors would be a start against the New York Yankees and then return to Durham before a return to the Rays for good in June.

After making 19 starts and finishing the 2016 season at 6-8 record with a 3.54 ERA, which included 98 strikeouts and 51 walks the Rays were counting on Snell to take the momentum and success of his first season in the majors into 2017.

However, that never happened, as Snell was unable to find his command and the ability to throw strikes resulting in high pitch counts that curtailed his starts that went no further than the fifth inning in seven of his eight starts.

The latest mess came against the Red Sox on Saturday afternoon in the Rays 6-3 loss. After a Kevin Kiermaier home run in the fifth inning against Sox ace Chris Sale gave the Rays a 3-2 lead, a meltdown by Snell in the bottom half of the fifth inning resulted in Boston scoring four runs to take the lead after a leadoff walk and three consecutive two-baggers, plus a miscue from Tim Beckham.

Snell would leave the game after 5.2 innings having thrown a career high 113 pitches, allowing six runs (all earned) on six hits with three walks and five strikeouts… and that would be the straw that broke the camels back and a trip to Durham.

"“I believe in myself a lot,” Snell said following Saturday’s start. “I’m aware of what I’m doing, and I need to be better. I know I can. So, it’s frustrating that I’m not doing what I know I can do.”"

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This season in eight starts, Snell is 0-4 with a 4.71 ERA (42-IP), he leads the majors in walks (25), and has only 34 strikeouts. Additionally, he has given up 28 runs (22 earned) on 43 hits – more alarming is that he has thrown 792 pitches, which averages out to 18.86 pitches per inning, tops in the majors.

The Rays have been extremely patient with Snell and his pitching troubles. He continued to get help from pitching Coach Jim Hickey, by working on his mechanics, watching video, and trying improve on his delivery by simplifying it.

However, the bottom line has remained the same as he maintains his consistency in not throwing strikes.

According to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, Erasmo Ramirez is the likely choice to replace Snell in the rotation, though the need for a fifth starter is not needed immediately. Topkin also adds via Twitter, that Ryne Stanek has been promoted from Durham to take Snell’s place and will work out of the bullpen.

A starter throughout his minor league career, the Rays began transitioning Stanek into a reliever towards the end of last season while with Double-Montgomery before pitching solely out of the bullpen after his promotion to Triple-A Durham.

This season in Durham, Stanek has been impressive, sporting a 1-0 record with a 2.00 ERA (18-IP, 14 Games). He has given up four runs (all earned) on 14 hits, with 25 strikeouts, and six walks and has two saves.

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Hopefully the time spent at Durham, Blake Snell will be able to work on his mechanics and command, gain his confidence back and return to the rotation pitching the way the Rays envisioned.