Snell’s Debut A Success, But He Goes Back To Durham

NEW YORK—Looking like a teenager, but pitching with the composure of a veteran, Blake Snell turned in an impressive performance in his major league debut Saturday for the Rays against the Yankees. The 23-year-old lefthander allowed just two hits, striking out six and walking just one in five innings in front of 40,714 at Yankee Stadium. He left with a 2-1 lead after throwing 90 pitches, 53 for strikes. Snell received a no-decision in the Yankees’ 3-2 win on a walkoff home run from Brett Gardner. Snell, wearing No. 4, threw 12 first-pitch strikes, all catching the Yankees’ looking. He mixed his fastball, slider, changeup and two versions of his tenacious curveball well. “I was more jittery than anxious,” Snell said about when he took the mound. “After the first inning, I settled in. I put us in a position to win, so I feel pretty good.” He said there were around 20 family members and friends to watch him. Snell’s only walk led to the lone run he gave up. With two outs in the first, Carlos Beltran walked, went to third on a single by Mark Teixeira and scored on Snell’s first of two wild pitches. Snell was bailed out of the inning when Rays leftfielder Desmond Jennings robbed Alex Rodriguez of an extra-base hit. He retired 13 of the next 15 batters, recording his first major league strikeout by buckling Brian McCann looking with a 12-to-6 curveball leading off the second inning. Snell then fanned Starlin Castro and Chase Headley for an impressive 17-pitch inning. Snell struck out Rodriguez—who he followed when he was growing up in Seattle and Rodriguez was with the Mariners—on a fastball up and away in the fourth. “I was a huge fan of his, so that was quite exciting,” Snell said. His most effective pitch was the curve, which fooled the Yankees’ righthanded batters. “I like to throw my loopy curveball,” Snell said. “They were swinging at it so I kept throwing it. It was a good strikeout pitch for sure. “I thought my fastball was moving well and I thought the slider had more bite to it than usual. I kept throwing the changeup to righties.” Rays manager Kevin Cash was impressed with Snell’s use of the strike zone. “He (Snell) pumped a lot of strikes and that was good to see,” Cash said. “A lot of times you see a young pitcher with a lot of power comes in and has a hard time finding the strike zone but he did not. “We knew he had good stuff, but to do it against a quality opponent like the Yankees says a lot.” Snell became the 27th pitcher to start a game for the Rays since 2008, the fewest of any team during that span. He’s also just the 33rd pitcher to make his debut at Yankee Stadium—either the old or new version. “My manager (Jared Sandberg) called, that’s what started the roller-coaster,” said Snell on how he found out he got called up from Triple-A Durham on Friday. “He never calls me. He couldn’t hold back his smile, so I knew what was going on.” Snell was drafted 52nd overall in 2011 out of a Seattle-area high school. He was named the Minor League Player of the Year in 2015, going 15-4 across three levels. He led all minor league starters with a 1.41 ERA, just shy of Justin Verlander’s 1.28 in 2005. He was 1-1, 2.51 with 21 strikeouts against seven walks in 14 innings for Durham before getting called up. Despite the success, after the game Snell was sent back to Durham and the Rays called up righthander Jhan Marinez.

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