TV: FOX Sports Sun
Time: Pregame coverage begins at 12:30 p.m.
By the time Blake Snell takes the mound Saturday for his major league debut against the New York Yankees in the Bronx, it might be the calmest point of the previous 36 hours of his life.
The 23-year-old with plenty of promise gets the ball for the Tampa Bay Rays in this matchup of AL East rivals.
Snell was slated to start for Triple-A Durham on Friday, but those plans changed when Saturday’s scheduled starter – Erasmo Ramirez – was forced into relief duty in a 12-8 victory over Boston on Thursday. With the Rays (7-9) already stacking their rotation with left-handers for this series, manager Kevin Cash felt it was the perfect time to get a glimpse of who they hope is a potential future ace.
“I liked the sound of pitching tomorrow,” said Snell prior to Friday’s series opener.
He went 1-1 with a 2.51 ERA and 21 strikeouts in 14 1/3 innings over three starts with the Bulls, showing his 2015 rise from Class A to AAA in which he went 15-4 with a 1.41 ERA and 163 strikeouts in 134 innings was no fluke.
Cash said he didn’t expect the setting of Yankee Stadium to overwhelm Snell, adding, “the anxiety and excitement of making your first major league start, everybody has that.”
“I got called up to pitch against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium,” Snell told the league’s official website. “If I’m not happy about that, I’m just not a happy person.”
According to scouting reports, Snell features a fastball with late movement that tops out in the mid-90s and has a highly effective slider, while his change-up and curveball are still gaining traction. The seventh of 10 first-round picks for the Rays in the 2011 draft, Snell likely will return to Durham after this outing, but he could make another big-league cameo since Tampa Bay is not rushing Alex Cobb in his recovery from Tommy John surgery.
“This young man has been talked about quite a bit,” Cash said. “His stuff speaks for itself, obviously. It just seemed right. He’s going to come up here and help us win a ballgame.”
Cash’s plan didn’t pay any dividends Friday when the Yankees (6-9),who entered batting .220 against lefties, went 8 for 26 against Matt Moore in their 6-3 victory. Brian McCann hit a two-run homer, just New York’s second when facing left-handed pitchers, and added a go-ahead RBI single in the sixth.
But it was Jacoby Ellsbury’s straight steal of home – the first by a Yankees player since Derek Jeter in 2001 – that snapped the team from its doldrums. Ellsbury added a two-run double in the eighth to make sure New York avoided a fourth straight loss.
“It’s a risk I was willing to take,” said Ellsbury, who is 6 for 11 in his last three games. “That’s the ultimate adrenaline rush for a basestealer.”
Masahiro Tanaka (1-0, 3.06 ERA) now gets the chance to help the Yankees win back-to-back games for only the third time. He’s allowed two earned runs in each of his first three outings and picked up the win Sunday by limiting Seattle to three runs and six hits in seven innings of a 4-3 victory.
Tanaka is 2-0 with a 2.70 ERA in three starts against the Rays. The right-hander has fared well against Evan Longoria, holding the slugger to a double in eight at-bats. Logan Morrison is 1 for 9 with five strikeouts in their matchups.