Tampa Bay Rays: Why Blake Snell Will Get the Opening Day Nod

Blake Snell (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
Blake Snell (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images) /

As the 2020 season approaches, Tampa Bay Rays manager, Kevin Cash will have to decide who will get the ball on Opening Day, but the decision shouldn’t be as hard as it seems. Here is why…

On March 26th nearly 30,000 fans will pile into Tropicana Field eager to usher in one of the most anticipated seasons in Tampa Bay Rays history. Just four months prior, a good number of those same fans likely attended the final home game of the season, Game 4 of the ALDS. Blake Snell recorded the first save of his career that day and sent his Rays back to Houston for a Game 5 showdown.

After failing to find consistency in 2019 due to a handful of injuries, Blake Snell found his footing prior to October baseball, and in the ALDS he looked like the Blake Snell that took the baseball world by storm in 2018 en route to his first CY Young award.

Now, four months later, Kevin Cash is faced with a decision. Who will get the Opening Day nod? Blake Snell, the young, electric, overpowering ace? Or, Charlie Morton, the grizzled veteran who took over a pitching staff that was decimated by injuries in 2019?

At 4:07pm when the Rays take the field to the applause of nearly 30,000 Rays fans, Blake Snell will be standing atop the mound, warming up to throw the first pitch of the Rays’ 2020 season. For Kevin Cash, Blake Snell is the man, he has to be.

For some, the decision to start Snell over Morton might seem ridiculous. Morton earned it last season… right? He was the glue that kept a shattered pitching staff from falling apart. He finished third in the American League CY Young voting. He led the Rays to the ALDS out-dueling Sean Manea in AL-Wild Card game at Oakland. He is a veteran, unfazed by the big moment.

For some, Morton is the guy.

For the Rays, Blake Snell is the guy. He has to be.

The Tampa Bay Rays are a team built around a young, exciting, and electric core and nobody better exemplifies that core than Blake Snell. Just a season removed from the most dominant campaigns in Rays history and one of the more dominant campaigns in recent baseball history, I shouldn’t have to remind you that, when healthy, Snell is among the best pitchers in the game.

Despite the fact that Tyler Glasnow touches triple digits on a regular occasion, and Nick Anderson strikes out practically everyone who steps in the box, Blake Snell is the Rays most electric pitcher and has been for the past two seasons. He is their most dominant pitcher, featuring a mid to upper 90s fastball, one of the best curveballs in the game, a changeup, and a slider all from the left side.

The Face of the Franchise

On Opening Day, teams want to set a tone and with Blake Snell on the bump, multiple tones will be set. The first of which is that the Rays believe in their young core, one that they have already started investing in. Blake Snell is their $50 million man and rightfully so.

Second, with Snell on the bump on the 26th, the Rays will also reaffirm their confidence in the southpaw after a disappointing 2019.

Third, this is Blake Snell’s team, this is Willy Adames and Kevin Kiermaier‘s team. And, at least in Snell and Adames’ cases, it will be for the foreseeable future. Charlie Morton may retire after this year, and if he doesn’t, he will after 2021. For a team that has always struggled to put a face to their product, with the exception of Price and Longo, Snell and Willy are those faces. And with that in mind, with all eyes on opening day, Cash will turn to Snell.

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On March 26th, Snell will take the bump and set the tone for what everyone hopes will be one of the most successful seasons in Rays history. This is his team, he has to.