Snell K's 10 in latest hitless rehab start as he nears return

May 18th, 2024

In case there was any doubt, Blake Snell's stuff looks in top form and ready to return to the big leagues.

The reigning National League Cy Young Award winner tossed his second straight hitless rehab start, this time striking out 10 overmatched hitters across five frames in Triple-A Sacramento's 5-1 win on Friday night at Sutter Health Park.

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This start comes on the heels of the southpaw tossing four perfect frames -- including an immaculate inning -- with seven K's for Single-A San Jose on Sunday. In all: nine innings, no hits, no runs, one walk, one HBP, 17 strikeouts.

After Friday's start, Snell will head back to San Francisco to check in with the Giants' staff. Assuming there are no setbacks, he will likely rejoin the big league rotation during the Giants' upcoming road trip to Pittsburgh and New York.

What's most important, though, is that Snell felt healthy after landing on the 15-day injured list on April 24 with a left adductor strain. He said he felt better than his previous rehab start and grew stronger as the game went on -- enough to throw 15 pitches in the bullpen after tossing 60 in the game.

"I was repeating pitches repeating delivery," Snell said. "I definitely felt good. I was excited about it. … When you can repeat the delivery, when you can make adjustments, it's a good thing."

Snell was firing all cylinders, with his fastball coming in at an average of 95.6 mph, just 0.3 over his season average across 2024. His curveball, too, was harder (81.1 mph, up 1.1). Those pitches were devastating against Triple-A competition, with eight whiffs on 14 swings against the heater and eight whiffs on nine swings against the curve.

The 31-year-old could tell he was not quite in midseason form yet. But to have these kinds of results was quite the confidence booster.

"The only thing I was frustrated with was when I tried to throw the ball harder with the fastball, my head was kind of getting out of the way instead of staying through and trusting my delivery," Snell said. "But outside of that, everything was straight through the plate, and I was pretty happy with it."

Snell said that he's anxious to get back to the big leagues and help out his new team, especially after how his season started. After signing a two-year, $62 million deal in mid-March, he didn't pitch in the Majors until April 8 and proceeded to give up more runs (15) than innings pitched (11 2/3) across three starts.

But returning to the Minors as he tunes up has allowed him to regain perspective -- and share that with his potential future Giants teammates.

"It's cool to just talk to them and help them get an understanding," Snell said. "This goes by so fast. There's moments where I just wanted to get out of Minor Leagues, get to the big leagues, but you lose track of what the Minor Leagues is for -- to develop you, to get you polished so when you get to the big leagues, you don't come back down here. So if you look at it the right way, it could really benefit your career a lot. I talked to a couple of guys in the bullpen and hopefully what I said has impact and weight and can help them with the struggles I went through. ... I focused on what I needed to focus on to get as good as I possibly could, but I definitely enjoyed those moments and memories."