Snell 'can't wait' for another shot at Dodgers

February 17th, 2021

, rather famously, just wanted one more shot at that Dodgers lineup.

With the World Series on the line last October, Snell never got it. But he’s going to see plenty of that lineup over the next few seasons, and needless to say -- considering his never-back-down persona -- he's looking forward to it.

"I can't wait to play the Dodgers," Snell said on Wednesday, the day Padres pitchers and catchers reported to the Peoria Sports Complex. "They're talented beyond belief. We're talented beyond belief. ... It's going to be a lot of fun. Every game."

Snell, of course, was removed from Game 6 of the World Series in the sixth inning while working on a shutout. Two months later he was dealt from Tampa Bay to San Diego in exchange for four prospects. As such, Wednesday took on a "first day of school" vibe for Snell. He says he's "terrible at names," but there are at least a few familiar faces in the clubhouse.

Snell was one of three major rotation acquisitions for the Padres this winter, alongside Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove. Factor in Dinelson Lamet and Chris Paddack, and Snell says he'd take this rotation over any in baseball -- including the Dodgers.

"They got dudes, so it's going to be a lot of fun going against them," Snell said. "But I'm picking my team every time. I think we stack up nice."

Snell's workload for the 2021 season was a major topic of conversation on Day 1. The 28-year-old left-hander won the American League Cy Young Award in 2018, but he did so in 180 2/3 innings -- the most he's thrown in a season.

Coming off a shortened 2020 season, Snell acknowledged his limitations and forecast 150 to 180 innings -- “and then the postseason." That seems right in line with what the Padres are looking for. They've made it clear they're going to treat their pitchers with caution at the outset.

More noteworthy, however, are the Padres' in-game plans for Snell. Since his Cy Young Award-winning campaign, he has pitched beyond the sixth inning only twice. That's partly a product of a couple of injuries, but it's also an organizational tenet.

The Padres, it seems, might be more open-minded toward using Snell beyond some of his previous limits.

"When he's healthy and he's right and everything is going, he's one of the best pitchers in the game," manager Jayce Tingler said. "We've got a lot of confidence that he'll be capable of doing that. But that's something that we've got to work up to."

Snell is squarely on board with that plan. He expects a slow progression early in the season, but he's also eager for the time when the reins are off.

"I want to see what's inside of me, and the only way to really see that is to go deep into games,” Snell said. “When you're starting to be a little bit more fatigued, and you've got to battle some things and try to be great, I think that's what I'm most excited about."

Who knows? Maybe he'll even get to do so against the Dodgers. He’d certainly relish that.

"I know how this rivalry's been," Snell said. "I know it's a little feisty lately, which ... I'm here for all of that."

Snell quipped that last spring he said "thank you" to the Red Sox when they traded Mookie Betts away from the American League East. Now that he again shares a division with the Dodgers' star right fielder, he said, “I’m taking my 'thank you' back.”

Still, Snell made it clear he's eager for the challenge. He'd rather the Dodgers field a juggernaut, because he’d rather beat a juggernaut.

This winter, as the Padres and Dodgers traded moves, Snell was the first domino to fall. From the moment he landed in San Diego, he watched as the two clubs made headlines. The Padres further upgraded their rotation with Darvish and Musgrove, then the Dodgers upgraded theirs with Trevor Bauer. The Padres signed Ha-Seong Kim and Jurickson Profar, then the Dodgers brought back Justin Turner. Both teams added to their bullpens.

"The Padres, they started quick, threw some haymakers quick,” Snell said. “Then the Dodgers, they followed with some big haymakers as well. It's exciting. It's what baseball should be about. Make the best team you could possibly make and do everything you can to win.

"It's going to be a fun series that everyone around the world is gonna want to watch. That's what it's about."