CLEARWATER – Opening day is less than 2 ½ weeks away and Blake Snell has thrown just four innings total over three games.
Don’t be, the reigning American League Cy Young award winner insisted after throwing two perfect innings in an 8-2 win over the Phillies.
“I’m where I need to be,’’ Snell said. “I just feel me and (pitching coach Kyle Snyder) have a set plan and it’s working. And it’s what’s best for me. People are probably like, why don’t you go three-four innings, but that’s not where I’m at. I need to be ready to go for opening day. Just be ready for that day. How we did that, it’s for us to decide.
“I’ll be ready. I’ll be ready, don’t be worried about that. I’ll be ready.’’
Snell certainly looked sharp Monday in retiring all six Phillies he faced, including getting Harper looking at a 96-mph inside fastball. But noting he also faced Andrew McCutchen (groundout) Jean Segura (groundout), J.T. Realmuto (fly out), Sean Rodriguez (groundout) and Scott Kingery (strikeout) in throwing 19 of his 27 pitches for strikes, Snell didn’t make much of the narrative of a showdown with the $330 million man.
“If you guys want to hear it, sure,’’ he said. “Their whole lineup is tough. I don’t really key in on a guy. It’s a lefty, (or) it’s a righty, that’s what I focus on. I’ve got to attack the zone, they’re going to do what they do, I’m going to do what I do. I really don’t care who’s hitting, that lineup is nasty.’’
Harper, for what it’s worth, was impressed:
“He’s good. I was just happy to go out there and face a guy like him, see some velo, see some off-speed as well, and just see one of the best in baseball. It’s always fun to be able to do that whether it’s the third game in spring or the middle of the season. It’s good to see.’’
Snell was pleased with what he did and how he did it, having been upset with his preparation and mental approach for his last outing against the USF team, and said he learned from it.
“It taught me a lot, made me a lot better which I needed, which is awesome,’’ he said. “To come here and get it going again, get the focus going, that’s when I’m at my best, when I’m focused. I had a good week, me and Kyle, we learned a lot. Felt back to how I should feel, and it’s just continuing to make steps in the right direction for opening day.’’
He showed no effects of the contract standoff with the Rays that resulted in his contract being renewed for $573,700, a raise of just $15,500 after winning the Cy Young award.
The Rays rolled out their four-man outfield shift, sending third baseman Keon Wong to left, against Harper. They’d done so previously against Baltimore’s Chris Davis and Toronto’s Justin Smoak, two other powerful lefties. But manager Kevin Cash said there are 15-20 hitters they’d also use it against some right-handers, which just might include Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. “I don’t know all of them yet,’’ he said. “But there’s a couple in New York that might require it.’’
Yonny Chirinos looked very sharp during a two-plus inning outing, hitting 97 mph with a four-seam fastball that pairs impressively with his 92 mph sinker. … Avisail Garcia homered for the second straight day and third of the spring, saying with his knee surgically repaired he feels back to his 2017 All-Star form. … Brandon Lowe, despite sustaining a cut and ample coloring under his left eye when hit by a bad-hop grounder during BP, delivered a two-run double, giving him a majors-most 13 RBIs for the spring. … Cash praised lefty Jalen Beeks, who looked sharp around allowing two homers. … Shortstop Willy Adames stood out defensively. … Ryan Yarbrough returned from a Feb. 28 groin strain with an impressive ninth for the 8-9-1 Rays.
* All three Lowes were on the field together when minor-league Josh went to center in the fifth, joining brother Nate, who was at first, and no-relation (and different pronunciation) Brandon at second. “I was waiting for someone to say something or to get a picture because we all ran out kind of the same time,’’ Brandon said. “It was kind of cool.''
* Cash said Tommy Pham (shoulder) is still slated to DH Tuesday, and that Matt Duffy (hamstring) is still limited to “pretty minimal stuff,’’ noting they probably have a week to determine if he can be ready for opening day. “Obviously time is becoming crucial,’’ he said.
* Charlie Morton and Chaz Roe will throw in a simulated game in Port Charlotte, which also features the first time Tommy John rehabbers Jose De Leon and Brent Honeywell face hitters.
* The Rays are awaiting word on the severity of non-roster catcher Anthony Bemboom’s right thumb injury.
Number of the day
Rays games at the Trop last season with smaller crowds than the 9,848 in Clearwater Tuesday.