Snell feels 'really good' after bullpen session

Reigning AL Cy Young optimistic he'll be able to help Rays in September

August 30th, 2019

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays are hoping to get healthier on the pitching side, and took another step in the right direction on Friday as he continued to rehab from arthroscopic surgery to remove loose bodies in his left elbow.

Snell threw his first bullpen session since undergoing surgery on July 29 before Friday's game against the Indians at Tropicana Field, and he said that he felt “really good” after throwing fastballs and mixing in some throws with a changeup grip.

“I’ve felt really good this week,” Snell said. “Bullpen felt good today. Fastball is coming out easy. I don’t feel any pain, so as of right now there are no setbacks. It should be full force forward.”

Snell is scheduled to throw another bullpen session on Sunday and a final one on Tuesday before going through a live batting practice session, likely at Tropicana Field. The third bullpen session will feature Snell throwing all four of his pitches.

“I threw changeups today, and that felt pretty good,” Snell said. “I didn’t feel anything that I used to feel, so that’s good. It was kind of weird, honestly. I was like, ‘I’m supposed to feel something here,’ but I didn’t feel anything, so I’m happy about that. That means I’m more excited to throw the curveball and slider because I was kind of limited to that [before the surgery] with what I was feeling and how it was coming out.”

The tricky thing will be to figure out how to get Snell stretched out enough to help the Rays as a starter. Snell won't be ready to pitch in games for at least another week, and Minor League play is ending soon. Triple-A Durham could be an option if the Bulls make the playoffs, which are scheduled to begin on Wednesday. Class A Advanced Charlotte saw its season end on Thursday, along with the rest of the Florida State League, due to concerns about the path of Hurricane Dorian.

Despite that, Snell feels that he’ll be ready to pitch in a big league game shortly after his live batting practice session. He hopes to return during a three-game series at the Angels that begins Sept. 13, but he indicated that the decision ultimately falls on pitching coach Kyle Snyder.

“Three-plus [innings] to start,” Snell said. “With how I feel and with how well I know Snyder, I would say three innings to start with some type of pitch limit, but I feel really good with the fastball.”

Rays manager Kevin Cash isn’t quite as sure about the timeline. (right forearm strain) pitched one scoreless inning for Durham on Friday, and Cash believes Snell is seven to 10 days behind Glasnow’s projected return.

“Blake threw 15 pitches, and it went really, really well,” Cash said. “We’re encouraged by that, and we’ll continue to build him up. Tyler throws an inning tonight for Durham. Blake is probably seven to 10 days behind Glasnow’s workload.”

Regardless of the timetable, both Snell and the Rays remain optimistic that the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner will return to the mound this season.

“I’m very confident. I feel good. I’m very happy with how I feel.” Snell said. “I’m really happy with how the ball is coming out. Physically, I feel really good. I think the worst part about all of it is just having to watch."

Roster move
Before Friday’s game, the Rays optioned right-hander to Triple-A and selected the contract of right-handed pitcher from Durham. De Leon pitched an inning in Thursday’s victory over the Astros and recorded his first win of the season.

Pinto was part of the Rays’ Spring Training squad and pitched for Double-A Montgomery and Durham this season, combining for a 12-6 record and a 4.23 ERA. Pinto will add some depth to a bullpen that was heavily used on Thursday and will continue to be relied upon, with bullpen days scheduled for Friday and Saturday.

“[Durham manager] Brady Williams and [pitching coach] Rick Knapp have spoken really highly of him,” Cash said. “Really big arm -- 95 mph, and at times 98-99. Heavy sinkerball approach and throws a lot of strikes, and in that role, that’s what you’re looking for.”

Kiermaier sits again, could return Saturday
Rays center fielder was out of the starting lineup for a fourth consecutive game, but he was available off the bench despite dealing with left rib cage soreness. Kiermaier and Cash both believe that Kiermaier will be able to return to the starting lineup on Saturday after feeling better during pregame workouts on Friday.

“We’re hopeful,” Cash said. “We’re certainly closer than we were a couple of days ago. Definite availability today, if need be. But KK was very encouraged with the progress and a little wrap job here and there and felt better. We’re a better team when he’s out there.”