ST. PETERSBURG — Blake Snell got the word Sunday evening that he’d been traded from the Rays to the Padres. Before calling his dad or other members of his family, he had to talk to his “second father,” Tampa Bay pitching coach Kyle Snyder.
For 90 minutes.
The length of their call was a reflection of the depth of their relationship, going back to their climb together through the minor leagues. It’s also an example of why having to say goodbye to the Rays after 10 years in the organization was initially keeping Snell from getting excited about joining the Padres.
“Honestly, it’s just sad," Snell said Tuesday on a media Zoom call. “I haven’t really processed what it’s going to be like to have an Arizona spring training, to go play in San Diego with this team.
“I was just more reflecting on the last 10 years of my life and what I’ve been through. The things I’ve learned, the people I’ve met and the importance that it’s had on my life..”
Snell came to the Rays in 2011 as an 18-year-old supplemental first-round draft pick out of a Seattle-area high school and left as an All-Star and Cy Young Award winner in the midst of a five-year, $50-million contract.
“It’s bittersweet for me,” Snell said. “I had a lot of good memories and moments in Tampa (Bay) that I’m going to cherish forever. ... I was a kid when I got there and then they turned me into, I’d like to say, a good man. So there’s a lot to be thankful for there.
“But with all that said, it prepared me for when they traded me to the Padres to be ready for this opportunity, and to take advantage of it. ... I’m super excited to meet the guys, to meet the staff, to meet the people that I’ll be interacting with on a day-to-day basis. That makes me super excited and thankful that they traded the (four) prospects they had to trade to get me over here to be on this team. So all in all, I’m thankful on both ends.”
Snell has seen enough players traded during his time with the Rays to know he was not likely to stay through the end of his contract in 2023, but he didn’t expect to be dealt this soon.
“I thought for sure it would happen next year or the year after,” Snell said. “I put no thought into this year. ... I thought I had zero chance to be traded. But the Padres, they really wanted me and they were persistent and I’m happy about that. ... But for this to happen, it’s something that it’ll take me a little while to get over it.”
Snell said his best memories (besides the “good Zoom calls” with the media) includes time with other now former Rays pitchers — mentioning Chris Archer, Nathan Eovaldi, Alex Cobb, Matt Moore and Charlie Morton — and the success he and the team had.
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“Winning the (2018) Cy Young, that has got to be up there,’' Snell said. “Making it to the playoffs for the first time (in 2019), that was something that was special. And the World Series, being able to get to the World Series and do something that the organization hasn’t done since 2008, that’s something that’s super special.”
And that includes how it ended for him, pulled in the sixth inning of Game 6 by manager Kevin Cash despite holding a 1-0 lead that reliever Nick Anderson would soon relinquish.
Snell said he gets asked about the situation often, and reiterated he had no hard feelings.
“I only think about it as much as I do because of how many people bring it up to me,” Snell said. “I know how Kevin Cash manages. I respect him. And I’ve always trusted him.
“He knows how to win. We got to the World Series because we won, and we did that the whole way through. I have my moments where I would have put it to where I wanted to be out there, and I want to do everything I can to try to help the team win. And he’s doing the same thing. So I’ve got to understand that."
Snell did say he was “very excited” about pushing himself to take advantage of the opportunity to pitch deeper into games he expects to get from the more traditionally oriented Padres.
Snell said he is thrilled to join a talented, contending and “swaggy” team; looking forward to getting to know manager Jayce Tingler and pitching coach Larry Rothschild (the former Devil Rays manager); and eager to be reunited with former Rays such as Tommy Pham, Wil Myers and Jake Cronenworth.
But nothing will replace the relationship he had with Snyder, one he plans to continue even though they are in different uniforms now.
“Kyle’s been my papa, Papa Snydes,” Snell said. “I’m still going to talk to him every day. I’m still going to talk to him about pitching, philosophy, strategies, his son, Luke, his dog, Rusty. ... That relationship is too strong for me not to talk to him as much as I do still to this day. It sucks leaving him, because that’s all I’ve known.
“You can tell the impact Kyle’s had on my life. ... That’s someone, he saw me as an 18-year-old boy and he just worked me over and over, so much time he put into me, and I’m forever thankful.
“His first year (as the Rays major league pitching coach), we were able to win a Cy Young together. I told him I wanted to win more with him. So he’s still going to be on the phone, we’re still going to be talking, we’re still going to be doing what we always have done. That’s never going to change.”