Blake Snell, who until recently played for the Tampa Bay Rays, was initially grateful that the Boston Red Sox traded Mookie Betts from their division last year. He talked about it on Wednesday, his first official day with the San Diego Padres, and the cruel irony of being placed in the Betts division while being the central figure in the sport’s most anticipated rivalry.
I withdraw my thanks, Mr Snell. I’m not thanking Boston anymore.
Betts, the starter for a Los Angeles Dodgers team that has won 72% of its regular season games and was world champion last year, has a new challenger in the Padres.
Snell, winner of the 2018 American League Cy Young Award, played a key role in an exciting offseason when Padres general manager A.J. Preller added starter Yu Darvish and outfielder Ha Song Kim, among others, to the emerging young squad. The Dodgers responded by contracting Trevor Bauer and bringing in Justin Turner, strengthening a team that Pequot expects to win 103 major league games in 2021.
The Padres, they started fast, Snell said of a dead season in which Preller added no fewer than seven different players. We quickly gave up a few rides with hay carts. And then the Dodgers followed with big mowers. It’s exciting. That’s what baseball should be about – putting together the best team and doing everything possible to win, and I feel like both teams are doing that. This is going to be very exciting. It will be a fun show that everyone will want to see. Here’s the deal.
The Dodgers have won eight consecutive WHL titles, but the Padres ended a 13-year drought in the playoffs last season with an exciting core team led by Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado – only to be overtaken by the Dodgers in the NL Division playoffs. Their confrontations took on a new intensity, as evidenced by Trent Grisham’s goal against Clayton Kershaw in September and Cody Bellinger’s rejection of what could have been the winning goal in October.
This team is going to do a lot to make me a better pitcher, Snell said of the Dodgers. I’m really excited to face them. I hope I can face them every time we play them. It’s something I’m looking forward to, and I can’t wait. I’m really excited. I know what the rivalry looked like. I know things have been a little crazy lately, and that’s why I’m here. And I’m looking forward to being a part of it. And hopefully that will put us more on the winning side.
The last time Snell was on the mound, he was running in circles against the Dodgers. It was game six of the World Series, the Rays were led by one racer, and Snell allowed just one base runner in five rounds. Then he distinguished himself by winning game six, the Dodgers’ top team should have gone to game three, and the Rays’ manager, Kevin Cash, struck him out, giving the Dodgers the win.
This decision was widely criticized, but it was also in line with the way the Rays normally use their starters. With the Padres, Snell hopes to continually have the opportunity to immerse himself in the games – a conversation with manager Jace Tingler and pitcher’s coach Larry Rothschild.
It’s a matter of what he will do for me internally, Mr. Snell said. I want to see what wood I’m cut from, and the only way to really see that is to get to the bottom of games when it comes to fighting certain things and trying to be good. I think what worries me the most is what I’m made of.
That’s what I’m looking forward to the most. I feel like it’s going to tell me a lot, that I’m going to learn a lot, and that I can really grow from this experience. It’s something I can’t put my finger on, but I know I’ll be much better as a full-time starting pitcher once I get into baseball.
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