Blake Snell

Snell ‘good to go' for Giants debut after pitching simulated game

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LOS ANGELES -- When the Giants arrived at Dodger Stadium on Monday, Blake Snell, Kyle Harrison and Jordan Hicks all went out to the visiting bullpen to throw. At the time, the Giants had not announced their rotation plans for the rest of the week, and there was some thought that Snell could be the one in that trio to take the final game against the league's best team. 

Last season, Snell embodied "good pitching beats good hitting," allowing just 10 hits in 23 innings against a loaded Dodgers lineup that did nothing to slow his Cy Young campaign. It's a track record the Giants were well aware of when they signed Snell to a two-year deal, and they had hoped he could get up to speed in time to pitch Wednesday.

Snell did, in fact, take the mound at Dodger Stadium. But he faced his own teammates, not the Dodgers, getting a lengthy simulated game in to prepare for next Monday's season debut at Oracle Park. 

Later in the day, another comeback attempt fell short as the Giants got swept by a Dodger team that has scored at least five runs in all nine games this season. Snell had hoped to be ready by that game, but he didn't feel quite there after facing the Giants' Double-A team last week. 

"I love playing the best teams. I'm just not ready," Snell said Wednesday. "There's no point to push it this early and then risk anything. Everything I did in the offseason was to get ready and I did the best I could, but you just can't simulate being here every day. I feel good to go now."

The Giants did not sign Snell long-term, and the expectation is he will opt out of his deal this winter, but all sides are taking the long view for this season, at least. Snell will end up sliding into the rotation for the third turn, between Logan Webb and Harrison. He has had some slow starts in the past, but the hope is he can hit the ground running next Monday, and Snell said he took some tangible info out of Wednesday's simulated game. 

Facing your own teammates allows you to try new things, like throwing left-on-left changeups to Mike Yastrzemski, something he hasn't done much in the big leagues. It also allowed him to repeatedly work on a slider that is always the last of his four plus pitches to come around. Snell said he got "good feedback" from the session, which lasted 74 pitches and allowed him to simulate inning breaks. 

There have been other big-time free agents who waited deep into the spring to sign, but the road map for pitchers like Snell and Jordan Montgomery is not all that established. While Montgomery will go to Triple-A with the goal of being ready to join the Arizona Diamondbacks rotation on April 19, the Giants took a different approach with Snell. 

It was a risk putting Snell on the Opening Day roster without full clarity on whether he would miss one start or two, but the bullpen has survived, with a few call-ups helping to soak up innings. That allowed Snell to throw twice in the last week and make up for lost time after he spent weeks throwing to amateur hitters in Seattle. 

"I was at four innings and built up (at home), but you get here and it's like, I'm not where I thought I was. And you can't lie to yourself," he said. "It really helped that I've known Bob (Melvin) and we trust each other, and that helped me a lot."

Snell was honest with Melvin after facing the Double-A team, telling his former San Diego Padres manager that he didn't feel like he was getting any better against minor leaguers. He made plenty of mistakes in four innings last week, but the minor leaguers weren't prepared for the quality of his stuff and struck out 11 times. 

Snell faced three big league hitters in an MLB park on Wednesday. The next time out, it'll be a full squad, with a curious home crowd ready to see what Snell looks like when the adrenaline kicks in. 

Snell said fatigue was a factor at the end of his four innings last week. But on Wednesday, the fastball got better as he went. It was one more sign that he’s ready. 

"(We decided) let's go one more, but against our guys and I'll face big leaguers," he said of Wednesday's simulated game. "That was the process of it. I didn't have a day of when I would feel back. It was just when I feel good and ready to pitch, I'll pitch."

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