Top prospect Snell's home debut 'erratic'

Top prospect Snell's home debut 'erratic'

ST. PETERSBURG -- The excitement that came with Blake Snell's arrival to Tampa Bay was erased quickly due in part to both his lack of command and the poor defense around around him.

The lefty, who was named 2015 Minor League Player of the Year by various outlets and is the organization's top-ranked prospect according to MLBPipeline, allowed five runs, but just one earned, in 3 1/3 innings. He exited with 92 pitches to his ledger in what would eventually be a 6-4 loss to the his hometown Mariners.

"They were taking more, so I should have been more aggressive," Snell said. "I felt like my stuff was good. But I felt like I had more at-bats where I was battling. I felt like I should have attacked more."

Snell made his Major League debut in April at Yankee Stadium and had a much more successful outing in the Bronx. Pitching for the first time at his home field, he couldn't recapture that magic. His outing was the second shortest of the season for the Rays, and it came on the heels of a 13-inning game the night before.

A day that started with the promise of a finally-ready top prospect ended with Snell talking barely above a murmur at his locker. Regardless, he will stay a part of the rotation, manager Kevin Cash said. He'll have opportunities to put this behind him.

"Fairy erratic, I think is fair to say," Cash said of Snell. "They had a pretty good approach against him. … They drove his pitch count way up, much higher than we would have liked."

But for as erratic as Snell was on the mound, the defense didn't do him any favors. Already facing a 1-0 deficit in the first, shortstop Tim Beckham failed to glove a routine grounder that turned into another run. An errant throw by Beckham that pulled first baseman Logan Morrison off the bag in the fourth led to two more runs. 

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In total, the four unearned runs were the most given up by a Rays starter since 2014. Cash said he hoped the defensive struggles weren't a mental hindrance to Snell. But they did hurt a rising pitch count, and they proved costly in a close game.

"When you go up through player development, the same stuff goes on there," Cash said. "Obviously, we're out there busting it to make every play possible. We didn't today. Our pitchers know that at times we're going to pick them up defensively and at times we need them to pick us up."

Snell kept saying that he wished he was more aggressive. The Mariners' hitters were patient, and his pitch count reflected that. He danced around the zone, and it resulted in some walks and some hard hits.

Tropicana Field has always been considered his future home. On Thursday, the word "future" was dropped. But his chance to leave his first lasting mark was missed. 

"It felt like I was trying to be too pretty, was trying to nitpick," Snell said. "It's something that I can definitely learn from and get better."

Sam Blum is a reporter for MLB.com based in St. Petersburg. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.