1. Sports
  2. /
  3. Rays

Rays’ Blake Snell: ‘One good year means nothing’

Tampa Bay’s reigning Cy Young award winner makes his first opening day start with more to prove.
Rays pitcher Blake Snell is aiming high again this season and for the rest of his career.  "I really want to get to the Hall of Fame." CHRIS URSO | Times
Rays pitcher Blake Snell is aiming high again this season and for the rest of his career. "I really want to get to the Hall of Fame." CHRIS URSO | Times
Published Mar. 27, 2019|Updated Mar. 28, 2019

ST. PETERSBURG — Blake Snell made one concession to winning the award as the best pitcher in the American League after all — a new dog, a Husky, named Cy. “My dad named him,’’ Snell said.

Otherwise, Snell isn’t here to talk about the past.

He doesn’t see much value in genuflecting to the Cy Young Award, which hangs at his dad’s house and not his. Nor in reflecting on his amazing performance that led to it.

From his first interview minutes after being announced as the winner on Nov. 14, Snell has talked about moving forward and needing to get better. That’s a mantra he will take to the mound today for an aces-high opening-day matchup with Cy runnerup Justin Verlander and the Astros.

Success, Snell insisted Wednesday, has to be measured by a longer term than one season, no matter how spectacular it was.

“My whole career,’’ he said. “One good year, I mean, yeah, I’ll have the Cy Young, that I’ll have to hold on to forever. But one good year to me means nothing. You had one good year. That’s all it is.

“I want to be a guy that, I really want to get to the Hall of Fame. That’s always been a goal of mine. It’s a dream that I want to chase. But I know to get there you’ve got to be unreal. And you’ve got to really work and go get it. For me, that’s what I want to be and that’s what I’m going to try to reach for.”

As impressive as Snell was in compiling his 21-5 record and 1.89 ledger while pitching in the rugged AL East, it can be hard to have a serious discussion of where he needs to improve.

Manager Kevin Cash usually laughs when the topic is brought up, saying he would be perfectly fine with 2018 Snell during the terms of his new five-year, $50 million contract, and however longer.

“I hope he plateaus,’’ Cash said. “Just like that. I hope he goes 20 and whatever with a 1.89. If he plateaus right there, we’re good.

“The consistency will be it. I think that’s the challenge for everybody.”

Sure, Snell, 26, could pitch more innings than his 180⅔. Could reduce his 64 walks. Cut down on his 16.15 pitches per innings. But most of what he did was so good — a .178 opponents average, 0.97 WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched), two or fewer runs in 27 of 31 starts, that it really is hard to quibble.

Pitching coach Kyle Snyder and other Rays officials are hard-pressed to come up with much of a to-do list.

RELATED: Rays sign Blake Snell to 5-year, $50 million extension

Want more than just the box score?

Want more than just the box score?

Subscribe to our free Rays Report newsletter

Columnist John Romano will send the latest Rays insights and analysis to keep you updated weekly during the season.

You’re all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.

Explore all your options

“Where his numbers were last season, I don’t know that you can nitpick them unless you want to see the guy going out there and getting literally every single hitter out,’’ senior vice president Chaim Bloom said.

Naturally, Snell sees it differently. He insists there is much to get better at such as driving off his back leg stronger in keeping his delivery uniform, to making quicker adjustments when things aren’t going well, to getting, well, in his words, “better with the way that I talk to myself” and the catchers.

Also, finding ways to succeed when not as his best.

“I watched (Nationals ace Max) Scherzer pitch against us and he looked terrible but he still went deep into the game and made you believe he was still that guy,’’ Snell said. “He didn’t have his stuff, but he made you believe he had all of it. That’s something I learned from and I want to do just like: If I don’t have it, I still have it and put fear into the hitters.’’

Snell’s determination to improve, fueled by taking each at-bat as a personal challenge and sporting a chip over some perceived slights, feeds a narrative that maybe 2018, his first full season in the majors, was just the start of things. There isn’t much history among Cy winners to assess Snell’s track for ascension or regression. He was the youngest to win the AL honor since Felix Hernandez in 2010 and had the least experience, in terms of games pitched, since Roger Clemens in 1986.

David Price, the former Ray who won a Cy in 2012 and a World Series last year with Boston, said the 2018 honor for Snell could be the first of several.

“This past season, it was no fluke,’’ said Chris Archer, another former teammate, now with the Pirates. “This could go on. It could be a (Dodgers ace) Clayton Kershaw situation where for seven to 10 years his name is in Cy Young contention, in the top three pretty much every year.’’

One thing you do know: He won’t be dogging it.

Contact Marc Topkin at Follow @TBTimes_Rays.


This site no longer supports your current browser. Please use a modern and up-to-date browser version for the best experience.

Chrome Firefox Safari Edge