ST. PETERSBURG — LHP Blake Snell is scheduled to make his second big-league start this afternoon in the finale of the Rays' three-game series against the Mariners, with the idea that this is the beginning of a long run of big-league starts.
"That's what I'm thinking," Snell said Wednesday.
Snell, who impressed during his big-league debut April 23 at Yankee Stadium, returns to the rotation with a slider — "He's using it more than we saw," manager Kevin Cash said — and perhaps a better mental state.
Snell, 23, said he spent the time at Triple-A Durham since that outing against the Yankees working on the mental side of his game.
"You just need to focus on this is where you're at, this is where you have to focus on being the best you can be," Snell said. "I gained more confidence, more trust in myself and I really believe a lot more in myself."
Snell replaces RHP Matt Andriese in the rotation in a move aimed at improving the bullpen while getting the 2015 minor-league player of the year in a rotation that could use a boost. The Rays' highly touted rotation was 18-22 with a 4.26 ERA heading into Wednesday's game. The leader in wins and ERA was Andriese (5-0, 2.82).
When asked what he expected today from Snell, Cash said, "Nothing special. Just give us a chance to win the game."
Snell's father, David, who was unable to attend his big-league debut, will be at the Trop today, as well as Snell's mother, uncle and girlfriend. To make the day even more special, he's facing the team he rooted for while growing up near Seattle.
"I'm pretty pumped about it. Excited to face that team," he said. "Definitely something that I'll be a little jittery about it, but I'm excited about it."
SOUZA SORE: RF Steven Souza Jr. was not in lineup, one day after hurting his hip while diving in an unsuccessful attempt to make a catch in the seventh inning of Tuesday's win. Souza said he'll know today about the long-term prognosis.
"Right now it just feels sore," Souza said Wednesday afternoon. "In that specific moment it felt like I literally had no control over where it was going. I don't think it's anything too crazy right now."
Souza, who started limping as soon as he stood up to chase after the ball, wasn't sure how he hurt himself.
"I landed and when I went to come up and plant my left foot, it didn't want to work, and I felt like Bambi up there," he said. "My mind was telling my leg to work and it didn't want to work."
EVELAND DFA'D: With Souza unavailable and possibly for a few days, the team brought up Durham OF Jaff Decker, who popped out as a pinch-hitter with two on and two out in the eighth Wednesday. To make room on the 40-man roster, the team designated struggling LHP Dana Eveland for assignment. Eveland, who allowed two runs in two-thirds of an inning Tuesday, had a 7.56 ERA in 16⅔ innings over 21 appearances.
LONGO TIES CRAWFORD: 3B Evan Longoria tied former LF Carl Crawford for the team's longest major-league service time at 8 years, 72 days.