Searching for elusive hot start, Blake Snell gets Opening Day nod for Padres

Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

The Padres announced Blake Snell as their Opening Day starter on Friday.

The Padres finally announced their Opening Day starter for the 2023 season. In a spring where Joe Musgrove broke his toe lifting weights, and Yu Darvish was thrown off his routine pitching for Team Japan in the World Baseball Classic, the honor fell to lefty Blake Snell.

He will face off against German Marquez and the Colorado Rockies on Thursday, March 30.

Not that Snell, when in his groove, is any sort of drop-off from the other two in the top of the Padres rotation. After all, of the three, he is the only one with a Cy Young Award at his house.

However, Snell has been prone to the slow start out of the gate. His two worst months of his career overall are May and June, both with an ERA north of 4.50. In his first 11 starts in 2021, he owned a 5.55 ERA.

Last year, he made just one start before May 18 after being slowed by an injury. His ERA was 5.22 in his first 11 starts last season after he returned.

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However, he proved last year that he can overcome a slow start to end the season strong and post quality numbers overall. In 24 starts, he owned a 3.38 ERA and 111 ERA+ in 2022. He finished strong, with a 2.23 FIP and 2.19 ERA in his final 14 starts.

This season, symbolized by him being named the Opening Day starter, signifies a new hope. A hope that he comes out of the gate fast and keeps going all season long at the same torrid pace with which he finished his 2022 campaign.

Perhaps Opening Day can serve as a catalyst for a fast start and even faster finish. If the Padres truly have World Series aspirations, they need Snell to be in top form.

Among pitchers with at least 250 innings pitched over the last two seasons, Snell is second only to Carlos Rodon with 12.0 strikeouts-per-nine-innings. He can strike himself out of any sticky situation with his four-pitch mix. He truly has ace “stuff.” It is a manner of execution and overcoming pressure he puts on himself.

Snell becomes the 35th different pitcher to start Opening Day for the Padres in franchise history. Darvish sought to be just the fifth pitcher to start three Opening Day games for the Padres. However, his uneven schedule pitching in the WBC derailed that chance, at least for this season.

This year, it’s Blake Snell’s turn. While it’s just one game out of 162, it symbolizes a hope that Snell can start off on the right foot on his way to a stellar season.

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