Padres’ Blake Snell uses every game as ‘opportunity to grow’

Padres Blake Snell

Credit: USA Today Sports

Padres Blake Snell
Credit: Zoom

Blake Snell’s competitive nature will be a positive boost for the San Diego Padres rotation. He spoke with the media following his start on Monday.

The Padres spotted starting pitcher Blake Snell four runs before he took the mound on Monday. Snell, 28, also took an at-bat before throwing a pitch, watching all three pitches for a strikeout.

“I was told not to swing…today I had to track,” Snell said via Zoom call following the game. “I think the vision was good. I’m looking forward to actually going up there to swing the bat.”

Snell was acquired in a five-player deal with the Tampa Bay Rays to bolster the Padres’ starting rotation over the offseason. The former AL 2018 Cy Young Award winner posted a 3.24 ERA in 11 starts with 63 strikeouts in 50.0 innings in the 2020 season.

In his third start of the spring exhibitions, Snell tossed three innings, faced ten batters, and struck out two while allowing just one hit. Most pitchers would be happy with that performance, ramping up the workload as the regular season draws near.

However, Blake Snell expects the most from himself.

“Every game is the most important thing to me because it’s my opportunity to go for something, to be the best at something. And it’s like that for everything. I’m a bad loser. Don’t play Monopoly with me,” Snell said while laughing.

“I don’t want to lose, which means I have to focus more,” the southpaw continued. “I have to work harder. I have to understand myself. I have to be smart with everything I do. So no matter what game it is, it’s the most important game to me, and it’s an opportunity to grow and be the best player I can be.”

Snell was taken in the first round of the 2011 MLB Draft and developed in the Tampa Bay Rays organization, an organization known for producing top-tier pitching talent. At 23 years of age, Snell made his debut, making 19 starts and posting a 3.54 ERA from the Rays’ rotation.

From there, Snell continued to get better, earning All-Star nods, MVP consideration, and, as noted, a Cy Young Award.

The Sherwood, Washington native features four pitches in his arsenal, all equally dangerous. According to StatCast, Snell ranked in the 86th percentile in whiff rate, carried heavily by his changeup and slider. In the shortened 2020 season, Snell yielded a 0.033 and 0.132 average against and 49.3 and 61.8 percent whiff rate on his changeup and slider, respectively.

He’s a welcome addition to a Padres rotation that suddenly looked thin at the start of the offseason with Mike Clevinger headed for Tommy John surgery, Dinelson Lamet‘s health in question, and Chris Paddack struggling with his fastball.

With as much fun as the Padres clubhouse displayed on camera last season, Snell will fit right in. But he also understands there’s a time and a place for that, and his primary job is to get batters out.

“I have a lot of fun,” said Snell. “I joke and all that, but when I go home, I’ll be really locked in.”

As for who he’s looking forward to facing in Sunday’s start against the Angels, Snell didn’t hesitate to answer.

Mike Trout. It’s the only way to get better. If you aren’t facing the best guys in the lineup, how are you going to get better?”

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