Rays’ Blake Snell looks to rebound by establishing fastball

The reigning AL Cy Young award winner is coming off the shortest start of his MLB career, but are the free-swinging Twins the right fit for that approach?
Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Blake Snell reacts during the first inning of a baseball game against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium, Wednesday, June 19, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Blake Snell reacts during the first inning of a baseball game against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium, Wednesday, June 19, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Published June 25

MINNEAPOLIS — Blake Snell tries to keep his routine the same between starts, but the Rays left-hander said the past few days have been a little different coming off the shortest start of his career last Wednesday at Yankee Stadium.

"I think more because there's more to think about, but it's kind of the same for me," Snell said Sunday in Oakland. "I'm just always eager to go out and pitch again. But it's more I have to look at, more I have to figure out and learn from. It doesn't bother me. The outcome of the game, it's never bothered me. It's more of what I can learn and grab from each game and that's why it's about catching a rhythm and getting going. That's what I'm focused on."

And Snell, the AL’s reigning Cy Young award winner, is definitely trying to correct some recent struggles going into his next start today against the Twins at Target Field. He lasted just one-third of an inning against the Yankees, and he has a 10.29 ERA and .317 opponents batting average in four June starts.

"I have to learn from it," Snell said about his last start. "Just have to use my pitches better. I know what I've got to do. I'm happy with where I'm at. I'm confident in where I'm at. It happened. I'm going to learn from it. I'm going to get better from it."

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Snell realizes that he needs to establish his fastball. Against the Yankees — and also in some of his recent poor starts — he has leaned on his off-speed, particularly his curveball, too much in an effort to mix his pitches more.

But he also knows the Twins are on pace to set a major-league home run record — they are projected to hit 309, which would break the current mark of 266 set by last year’s Yankees. He will have to be careful because the Twins swing early and feast on fastballs.

“I do think (the fastball is) something I need to use, but knowing this team I’m going to face, they are aggressive, they do chase, so that’s something I need to be aware of as well,” Snell said. "I do know I need to establish the fastball so they can respect it a lot more to get them to chase and swing at the pitches that are off-speed.

“The way I succeed most is when I make them respect (the fastball) and then throw the off-speed,” he added. “I’ve been pitching backward, but I like how I’ve been pitching. I’m not going to complain about it. I’m going to pitch the way I want to pitch.”

Contact Eduardo A. Encina at eencina@tampabay.com. Follow @EddieInTheYard.


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