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Snell 'happy' with progress in loss to O's

@alysonfooter
August 1, 2020

Though there’s nothing slow about the pace of a 60-game season, the Rays have been careful with their prized lefty, easing him into a full workload a little more gingerly than other starters. Blake Snell, who had arthroscopic elbow surgery last July and a cortisone shot in February during Spring

Though there’s nothing slow about the pace of a 60-game season, the Rays have been careful with their prized lefty, easing him into a full workload a little more gingerly than other starters.

Blake Snell, who had arthroscopic elbow surgery last July and a cortisone shot in February during Spring Training, had a pragmatic approach to his start against the Orioles on Friday. He knew he was tabbed for three or four innings, with a fifth possible should he boast an efficient pitch count.

Snell lasted three batters into the fourth inning and likely would have finished it, but three straight hits -- including two homers -- abruptly ended his night in a game the Rays lost to Baltimore, 6-3, on Friday night at Camden Yards, stretching their losing streak to three games.

Box score

After the game, Snell berated himself for the pitch sequencing that led to the two homers. But overall, he gave himself high marks for an outing that he acknowledged was still a part of the building-up process. He used the word “happy” countless times, describing everything from his pitching line to the velocity on his fastball, which was up a tick from his first outing of 2020.

“Overall, first pitch strikes I’m happy with,” Snell said. “No walks, I’m happy with. The way I threw the ball, happy with. The way my arm feels, I’m happy with.”

Those warm feelings ended quickly when Snell addressed the back-to-back homers in the fourth inning that ended his night. Anthony Santander hit a two-run shot that first bounced off Kevin Kiermaier’s glove before clearing the wall, and Pedro Severino followed with a 414-foot solo shot, tying the game at three.

Snell lamented the mixing of pitches, especially to Severino: two changeups, two curveballs and a 95.2 mph four-seamer that Severino seemed to be waiting for. Of the 53 pitches Snell threw, 33 were fastballs, making it logical why a hitter might be waiting for one in a deeper count.

“Before the two curveballs, he was sitting on it,” Snell said. “You could tell by the swing he was sitting on it, so for me it was stupid how he was set up that whole at-bat. I'm way better than that. I should have just thrown another changeup and let him whiff at it again.”

Snell gaped at the outfield wall as Severino’s homer left the yard, seemingly in disbelief. The pitcher later explained that was a reaction not to the home run, but to pitching at Camden Yards, which is known as hitter-friendly.

“I just don't like playing here. I'm not gonna lie, I just don't,” he said. “So that's something I got to get better at. The way the ball flies here -- the thing that can solve that is you don’t let the ball go in the air. You just make a better pitch.”

The overall results were of lesser importance to Snell and his manager than the progress the lefty made in this outing. When a pitcher is still building stamina, other criteria come into play. That was the focus.

Snell’s velocity increased a step from his first outing of 2020. He averaged 95.6 mph on his fastball on Friday, up from 94.3 last Sunday against the Blue Jays. And he was dominant at times against the Orioles, retiring nine in a row -- and striking out the side in the second -- following Hanser Alberto’s first-inning double.

“I thought Blake threw the ball really, really well,” said manager Kevin Cash. “I know the last two batters he faced didn't go the way that he wanted or we wanted, but I was really impressed with the velocity, the command. Very encouraged by his performance, and really something that we can go to work with now.”

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.