'I'm getting better': Despite another rough start, Snell remains optimistic

April 20th, 2024

SAN FRANCISCO -- and Jordan Montgomery found themselves in a similar boat this offseason. They were two of the top starting pitchers available in free agency, but they both ended up languishing on the market before finally signing short-term deals in late March.

While they were on parallel paths this spring, the early returns couldn’t be more different for the veteran left-handers.

Montgomery managed to hit the ground running in his D-backs debut, but Snell continued to struggle to find his footing in a 17-1 blowout loss for the Giants at Oracle Park on Friday night.

Snell, the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner, gave up five runs on nine hits over 4 2/3 innings, falling to 0-3 with an 11.57 ERA through his first three starts of the year. Snell typically shoves against the D-backs -- he entered Friday with a 1.11 ERA in eight career starts against them -- but he was tagged for a run in the third and fourth innings, then surrendered three more in the fifth.

“I’ll find ways to get better and be the best me,” said Snell, who joined the Giants on a two-year, $62 million deal on March 19. “I don’t get too worried about the three games that I’ve had because I know that I’m better.”

Montgomery signed a one-year, $25 million deal with Arizona 10 days after Snell came off the board, but he showed little rust after agreeing to an optional assignment to build up at Triple-A Reno. The 31-year-old worked six innings of one-run ball for Arizona, allowing only a solo shot to Jorge Soler in the fourth inning. Soler’s 410-foot blast out to left field -- his fourth of the year -- gave the Giants their first homer at Oracle Park in 2024, setting off the stadium’s newly installed programmable lights.

It was quite literally the only bright spot for the Giants, who ended up being outhit, 22-4, in their most lopsided defeat of the year. The 17 runs were the most San Francisco has allowed in a single game since an 18-4 loss to Arizona on May 24, 2019.

Manager Bob Melvin said the Giants considered having Snell ramp up in the Minors like Montgomery, but they ultimately decided to carry him on their Opening Day roster and have him pitch in simulated games before he made his season debut on April 8.

“I mean, it was definitely an option,” Snell said when asked if he thought about going to Triple-A to start the season. “But I didn’t think I needed it. I still don't think I need it. Just better sequencing. The stuff is there, so it’s all sequencing and pitching like I know I can. Once I start doing that, then the what-ifs and all that will fade.”

While he still isn’t where he wants to be, Snell took some steps in the right direction on Friday. He was efficient through his first two scoreless innings and had a better feel for his slider, though Melvin said he thought there were some signs of fatigue in the fifth.

Snell gave up a leadoff double to Ketel Marte in the fifth and came within an out of avoiding further damage, but he misplaced a 1-1 fastball to Christian Walker, who lined it to the opposite field for a two-out RBI single. Eugenio Suárez followed with another single before Randal Grichuk delivered a two-run double that extended the D-backs’ lead to 5-1 and knocked Snell out of the game.

“I’m getting better,” said Snell, who departed after throwing 85 pitches. “I can say that. The slider was better than I thought it was. The changeup was pretty good today. Inconsistency in the speed, but the shape was good. The fastball was a little sporadic. But a lot of good results with it. I just threw it in bad counts. Overall, I was happy with the fastball. Curveball is definitely getting there. I didn’t throw it a lot today. I should have probably thrown that more.

“Just got to execute, have better sequences and have way better results.”