Rays' Blake Snell named <i>USA Today </i>minor-league player of the year

Blake Snell, left, at the All-Star Futures Game with Richie Shaffer (now with the Rays), ends the season with a 1.41 ERA across three minor-league levels.
Blake Snell, left, at the All-Star Futures Game with Richie Shaffer (now with the Rays), ends the season with a 1.41 ERA across three minor-league levels.
Published Sept. 10, 2015

DETROIT — All things considered, LHP Blake Snell would have preferred to be in Detroit on Wednesday. Instead he was home in the Seattle area, excited to be named minor-league player of the year by USA Today but a bit let down to not be starting his major-league career with a callup to the Rays.

"Of course I was disappointed, I feel like I made a strong case and did everything I could," Snell said. "But I feel like I put myself in a good spot to compete for a job next year."

Snell, 22, had a remarkable season, moving from advanced Class A Charlotte to Double-A Montgomery to Triple-A Durham and dominating at each stop, posting a combined 15-4, 1.41 record with 163 strikeouts in 134 innings.

But the combination of Snell needing to be added to the 40-man roster, the Rays falling back in the playoff race and an abundance of starting pitchers all worked against him, as did the resulting impact a promotion could have on his free agency eligibility.

Snell is the fourth Ray to win the USA Today honor, joining OF Josh Hamilton (2000), LHP David Price (2008) and RHP Jeremy Hellickson (2010). He could get similar recognition next week from Baseball America.

"It's cool," Snell said. "I was kind of in awe. I wouldn't say I was shocked, it was more like, 'I just did that?' There's some big names there."

SHAFFER TIME: The lineup card had a surprise for rookie Richie Shaffer on Wednesday: his first big-league start in leftfield. Shaffer, who plays primarily third base and occasionally first, had made two appearances on the grass with the Rays and three starts at Durham, all in right.

Rays manager Kevin Cash said he felt comfortable that Shaffer had been doing enough work in the outfield at Durham and during BP, wanted his bat in the lineup and didn't want to sit 1B James Loney a second straight game.

Bigger picture, Cash said the versatility to play the outfield will lead to more opportunity for Shaffer next season.

"I know it would help us going forward," he said. "We've got guys that are fairly locked into the corner (infield) positions especially in Evan (Longoria) and Loney. We can find ways to get guys off their feet there, but him being able to have the versatility to play outfield will definitely help."

Though still using Mikie Mahtook's glove, Shaffer said he was ready for the opportunity, and did fine: "I get my work in in the outfield pretty much every day, and this is what you do it for, to be prepared for these situations.''

ABOUT TUESDAY NIGHT: After playing for 5 hours and 3 minutes over 13 innings, the Rays lost 8-7, rookie reliever RHP Andrew Bellatti mishandling a bunt to set up the winning run, which scored on a sac fly. It was the Rays' 12th extra-inning loss (including 10 straight) and 12th walkoff loss.

MINOR MATTERS: Class A Charlotte beat Palm Beach (Cardinals) 6-4 to clinch its first-round Florida State League playoff series. The Stone Crabs open the best-of-five championship series tonight at Daytona (Reds). … RHP Jamie Schultz starts tonight as Double-A Montgomery opens best-of-five first-round Southern League play at Chattanooga (Twins).

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SOUZA TIME: OF Steven Souza Jr. (fractured left hand) was 1-for-3 for the Stone Crabs it what was likely his last rehab game. He will be evaluated today and is likely to join the Rays on Friday.

MISCELLANY: Cash said it was "very likely" RHP Nathan Karns would start again this season, though the date depends on the match-up. … The Rays improved to 25-16 against lefty starters, second best to the Blue Jays. … Fox Sports reported, as expected, that the Brewers plan to interview Rays exec VP Chaim Bloom for their GM opening. … RHP Chris Archer is signing autographs and holding a Q-and-A session at 6 tonight at Ferg's Sports Bar near the Trop; the fee is $55 with proceeds to his Archway Foundation.

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