Shorewood HS alumni makes MLB debut against Yankees
NEW YORK -- Other than his boyish face, 23-year-old Blake Snell of Shoreline sure looked as though he belonged in the big leagues.
The Shorewood High School alumni lived up to his billing in a much-anticipated debut, holding the New York Yankees in check for five innings before the Tampa Bay Rays lost 3-2 Saturday on Brett Gardner's solo homer off Erasmo Ramirez with two outs in the ninth.
"I don't really worry about the hype," Snell said. "I felt like I did good and I put the team in a good position to win, so I feel I did good today."
Perhaps baseball's top pitching prospect, Snell permitted one run and two hits. The slim left-hander struck out six and walked one.
"Just an outstanding effort," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "There's a lot of anxiety that goes on for a debut. I thought he really handled it well. He did a lot of good things. What a bright future he's going to have and I look forward to seeing him again sometime soon."
The 23-year-old Snell was sent back to Triple-A Durham after the game, as expected. He got called up to make a spot start in place of Ramirez, who won in relief Thursday.
"I'm just soaking this in right now. I will think about all that later," Snell said. "It was exciting. It was fun to be out there."
With a brief opportunity to impress, Snell did just that with his 95 mph fastball and big-breaking curve.
"Looked like it broke about 4 feet," Cash said. "It looked like it started at some batters' eyes."
Masahiro Tanaka gave New York seven quality innings opposite Snell, selected the minor league player of the year last season by Baseball America and USA Today after going 15-4 with a 1.41 ERA at three levels. He struck out 163 in 134 innings and could be the next ace in line for a Tampa Bay team with a strong track record of developing All-Star starters, from Scott Kazmir and James Shields to David Price and Chris Archer.
"The young man's got good stuff," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "Froze some of our left-handers with his curveball."
Snell's mother, Jane, sat with about 15-20 family members and friends in the second deck on the third base side. Many of them flew in together from Seattle and arrived in New York about 6 a.m., she said.
His father, Dave, pitched six seasons in the minors for Kansas City and Seattle and made it to Double-A. But he was away Saturday coaching his Shoreline Community College team during a doubleheader in Western Canada.
"He's a great kid. Can't clean his room, but can throw a baseball like nobody's business," Snell's mother said. "He grew up rooting for anyone except the Yankees and his opening debut is against the Yankees, so it's pretty funny."
Snell appeared nervous early on, taking deep breaths during his warmups and throughout a 24-pitch first inning. New York scored on a wild pitch that catcher Hank Conger probably could have blocked, but Snell escaped when left fielder Desmond Jennings made a leaping catch at the left-field fence of a long drive by Alex Rodriguez one of Snell's favorite players while growing up in the Seattle area.
"I felt like I just had to calm myself down and get into my rhythm," said Snell, who kept a couple of souvenirs from his debut. "It was more like I was anxious and trying to do too much, and then after that I kind of felt that I got more into my groove."
Kevin Kiermaier homered off the right-field foul pole for the Rays. Corey Dickerson had three hits, including an RBI double.
Trailing 2-1 in the seventh, the Yankees drew two walks against Tampa Bay's bullpen and loaded the bases with two outs when Jacoby Ellsbury reached on catcher's interference for the third time this season and 17th time in his career.
Gardner hit a line drive right back at Xavier Cedeno that deflected off the reliever's glove and rolled away for a tying infield single.
Two innings later, Gardner connected on a 3-1 pitch from Ramirez (4-1) and pointed toward the Yankees' dugout as he trotted to first base and the ball soared into the second deck in right field.
"I just missed," said Ramirez, who was trying to prevent Gardner from pulling the ball. "I wasn't happy about it."
Andrew Miller (1-0) worked a scoreless inning for the win.