Blake Snell’s Uninspiring Return to the Rays Rotation

PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 28: Blake Snell (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 28: Blake Snell (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) /

The results were supposed to be different, however they were the same for Blake Snell starting for the Tampa Bay Rays against Pittsburgh in his return from Durham.

A demotion to the Triple-A Durham in May for Tampa Bay Rays starter Blake Snell was so that he could work on his command, work deeper into games, gain consistency in throwing strikes and cut down on his walks.

Not all of the agenda was completed but the Rays were confident that what he had done was proof enough to warrant a return. But, that was not the case as the same Blake Snell showed up in his return to the majors.

The return came Wednesday night against the Pittsburgh Pirates and after retiring the first two batters on just five pitches – a swinging strikeout to leadoff hitter Max Moroff and a bunt ground out to Evan Longoria, everything was looking rosy and Snell was in command, well so it seemed… until Andrew McCutchen stepped up to the plate with Snell’s descend coming faster than a speeding bullet.

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Snell was like Clark Kent running into the phone booth for a quick change to put on his cape, however he was no Superman. Instead he would return to his pre-Durham self, as he wound up walking McCutchen and two of the next three batters, with a double and single in-between and a wild pitch before retiring Jordy Mercer for the third out.

The result was Snell giving up four runs on two hits and one strikeout. That’s all she wrote, as the Pirates would go onto win 6-2 making Snell a loser in his return.

So much for the new found confidence that saw Snell arrive from Durham with a 5-0 record and a 2.66 ERA with 61 strikeouts and only 15 walks in seven starts. When Snell’s night was over, he again failed to pitch deep into the game, making it through five innings while throwing 95 pitches. He failed in cutting down his walks as he gave up five and for any solace, he struck out six.

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Adding more to his report card on the night, Snell would lose his fifth game of the season – he has not won since defeating the New York Yankees on Sept. 22, 2016, and topping off the outing he is now the AL record holder with 17 major league starts of pitching five innings or fewer over his first 28 career games.

Maybe Snell should have worn his Durham Bulls uniform under the Rays road jersey, or instead of thinking he was pitching in the majors that he was back in the minors because it is very clear that when he pitches in the minors he is successful, is consistently consistent, and everything is in sync.

He has the ability but why the difficulty in the majors? That is the $64,000 dollar question that I have no answer for, and at this point in time someone needs to find out why sooner or later.

In 2015, Snell won the Baseball America and USA Today’s Player of the Year award based on his stunning minor league season when he went a combined 15-4 with a 1.41 ERA in 134 innings with 163 strikeouts.

All while pitching for Class A Charlotte, where he would open the season pitching 46 innings of scoreless baseball before moving up to Double-A Montgomery and then at Triple-A Durham. You do not pitch like this, getting these types of results if you do not have the ability.

The struggles against the Pirates may or may not have put Snell and the Rays back to square one, that is if the Rays intend to give him another start or two hoping for better results. Undoubtedly the Rays had expected much more from him, maybe Snell even expected much more from himself, but it looks as though it was left in Durham.

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Five days from now, Snell will likely have another chance to prove himself that his return to the rotation was warranted, beyond that is anyone’s guess.