NEW YORK -- Losing three straight to a division rival has made for a tough beginning to an eight-game road trip for the Rays. However, they could take solace in the fact that Blake Snell seems to be edging closer to becoming the pitcher they think he can be.Snell remains
NEW YORK -- Losing three straight to a division rival has made for a tough beginning to an eight-game road trip for the Rays. However, they could take solace in the fact that Blake Snell seems to be edging closer to becoming the pitcher they think he can be.
Snell remains winless on the season at 0-6, but he came away with a no-decision in Saturday afternoon's 5-4 loss to the Yankees at Yankee Stadium.
"I thought Blake threw the ball pretty well," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "He did a nice job. He gave us every opportunity."
Snell has struggled to give the Rays length. Entering Saturday's game, he'd gone five innings or fewer in 10 of his 12 starts. The flip side of that is he pitched 5 1/3 innings before getting lifted Saturday, and in his previous start, he went a career-high seven innings against the Orioles.
Prior to that start, Snell moved from the third-base side of the rubber to the center of it, a dramatic move that seems to have clicked his mechanics into place.
Snell said the change still feels right.
"I feel good," Snell said. "I feel confident. I just have to keep going. I would say I feel more comfortable to where I believe that where I want to throw the ball, it's going to end up there. That's correlated to me being in the zone more. Less walks. Attacking hitters."
In addition to the change of where he positions himself on the rubber, Snell noted that he's gaining confidence from the fact that the work he's been doing on the side with pitching coach Jim Hickey "is paying off."
"And I'm starting to believe that and see that," he said.
Snell said the validation of hard work is a good thing and can be uplifting.
"I've been putting in work all year trying to figure out why I'm not doing what I believe I should be doing," Snell said. "To just see that I'm getting somewhere with Hick and believing it, seeing that ... [it] feels good, but still a lot of room to gain and grow. Just have to keep doing it."
As for Snell's positioning on the rubber making a difference, "I'm not really sure if it's helping or not," Cash said. "He's thrown the ball well, much better the last two starts. If we're going to attribute that to it, that's fine. I would probably say it's more about establishing his fastball.
"He was driving some really good fastballs through the zone today. He's got his strike percentage a lot higher than what it was."
For the Rays to stay in contention, they'll need deeper starts from Snell and his fellow rotation members. That allows Cash to use his bullpen for the best matchups rather than just for eating up innings. In that vein, seeing Snell making progress should be viewed as a good sign going forward.
Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005.