Snell had his contract renewed by the Rays on Sunday and will make $573,700 in 2019, a raise of $15,500 from last season, Ralph Long of MLB.com reports. The numbers are a relative pittance for a pitcher coming off an AL Cy Young Award-winning season during which he racked up 21 victories and a 1.89 ERA. However, such is life for a non-arbitration-eligible player, so Snell will forge ahead with a modest raise for his 2018 efforts. The young southpaw will be eligible for arbitration for the first time next offseason, so he'll have no shortage of incentive to put together a successful encore campaign as the ace of the Rays staff.
Manager Kevin Cash announced Wednesday that Snell would take the hill for the Rays' regular-season opener March 28 versus the Astros, Neil Solondz of the Rays Radio Network reports. Snell had a rough go of things in his most recent spring outing Tuesday versus the University of South Florida, failing to escape the first inning while allowing four baserunners and finding the strike zone on only 15 of his 29 pitches. The ugly showing won't take the shine off his breakout 2018 campaign (21-5, 1.89 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and 221:64 K:BB in 180.2 innings) that culminated in him taking home the American League Cy Young award. An unsustainable 86.2 percent strand rate suggests another sub-2.00 ERA shouldn't be expected, but Snell's impressive underlying skills otherwise point to him being a worthy fantasy ace once again.
Snell couldn't make it out of the first inning in an exhibition against the University of South Florida on Tuesday, throwing just 15 of 29 pitches for strikes, Eduardo A. Encina and Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times report. "Blake couldn't quite find consistency with his delivery for whatever reason,'' manager Kevin Cash said. "Looked like he was trying to adjust on the fly and it just wasn't working. But no concern whatsoever.'' The Cy Young award winner came up surprisingly small against inferior competition, allowing two runs on two hits, a walk and a hit batsman. The rough outing naturally left the young left-hander, who's made improved control a priority this spring, considerably frustrated. Snell conceded to not having approached the start with the same intensity he would have against a major-league squad, and his inability to locate his fastball was especially disconcerting. The young southpaw did come away pleased with the performance of his breaking pitches, however, and will look to bounce back in his next spring outing, which should come towards the end of the week or over the weekend.
Snell was sharp over 16 pitches in his Grapefruit League debut against the Twins on Thursday, Juan Toribio of MLB.com reports. The 2018 AL Cy Young Award winner was particularly pleased with the performance of his curveball, which was responsible for the pair of strikeouts he recorded over his one inning. The sole blemish on Snell's cameo was a four-pitch walk to Jonathan Schoop, as it was otherwise an encouraging start for the southpaw. The Rays currently plan to deploy Snell every fifth game during the balance of spring training, which would line up next Tuesday's split-squad game versus Minnesota as his next scheduled appearance.
Snell won the 2018 American League Cy Young Award on Wednesday. Despite pitching just 180.2 innings -- the fewest ever from a Cy Young Award-winning starting pitcher -- Snell narrowly beat out Justin Verlander to win the award for the first time in his career. The lefty put together an impressive breakout campaign in 2018, finishing with a league-best 21 wins (and just five losses), while posting a 1.89 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 11.0 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 across 31 starts.