Snell, a Shoreline native, will get his first start Thursday against the team he was “obsessed with” growing up.
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Perhaps you can best judge Blake Snell’s childhood Mariners fandom by the players he referenced watching at the Kingdome and Safeco Field. Sure, Ken Griffey Jr. was first and Ichiro, followed by Alex Rodriguez. There was also Dan Wilson and then David Segui.
Wait, David Segui?
“Yep, first baseman, left-handed hitter,” he said.
That’s not exactly fair-weather fan material.
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In the list of favorites, Snell didn’t list one pitcher.
“I never really got into pitchers and that stuff too heavy until I found out I was one,” he said.
The Shoreline native isn’t just a pitcher. He’s the Rays’ No. 1 prospect and the No. 12 prospect in baseball per Baseball America. And on Thursday, he’ll start against the team he was “obsessed with” growing up while his father, mother, uncle, best friend and girlfriend will be in the stands at Tropicana Field.
“It’s pretty cool,” he said. “I’m pretty pumped about it. I will be pretty jittery facing the Mariners. It’s a team I watched my whole life and I always rooted for. It sucks to root against them now, but I’m getting used to it.”
Snell wasn’t certain if this start would have more butterflies and nerves than his big-league debut on April 23 at Yankee Stadium. Called up for a spot start, Snell worked five innings, allowing one run on two hits with a walk and six strikeouts and left Yankees hitters complimenting his mid-90s fastball and biting curveball.
“They definitely didn’t have to say those things,” he said. “So I appreciate it.”
Snell used his next nine starts in Durham after his debut to work on a few things from a mental standpoint.
“I’m more aware of what goes on up here,” he said. “When I went down, that was my mindset — OK, you’re down here to work on things to get better. I took it as a positive. I learned a lot when I went to New York. I brought that with me. It definitely made me better.”
Walker on mend
Less than 24 hours after being forced out of his start on Tuesday against the Rays with discomfort in his right foot, Taijuan Walker was confident that he’ll make his next scheduled start on Sunday in Boston against left-hander David Price and the Red Sox.
“Oh yeah, I’ll be fine,” he said.
Manager Scott Servais is anticipating that Walker will start on Sunday.
“He feels like it isn’t going to be a big issue,” Servais said. “He is on some medicine to kind of calm it down. We’ll take it pretty easy on him for the next day or two, but he feels pretty confident he can make the next start.”
Officially, Walker is dealing with tendinitis and inflammation in the posterior tibial tendon, which runs near the Achilles and controls support to the arch in the foot. Head athletic trainer Rick Griffin said the problem stems from Walker having extremely flat feet and the pressure it puts on the tibia. They are working to get Walker some orthotics to insert in his shoes. Until then, he will have to continue treatment for recovery and prevention.
“It’s way better today,” Walker said. “I’ve had it before. I just stay on it (treatment) and make sure I tape it all up, make sure everything is good and secure.”
Walker had the foot heavily taped after receiving treatment most of the afternoon. He played catch before Wednesday’s game. The plan was either to throw a bullpen or flat-ground session Thursday.
“It’s a concern,” Servais said. “Obviously before we run him out there, we have to be confident he’s going to be able to go out there and not just pitch an inning. He needs to be able to go out there for five or six innings. We’ll know more in another day or two on that one.”
• Felix Hernandez texted with Servais saying that “he’s feeling better.” Servais believes Hernandez is starting to move in the right direction in his recovery from a strained calf muscle. Hernandez is still playing light catch from a seated position to keep his arm active.
When Hernandez originally injured the calf, the hope was that he would progress back to the mound quickly once the inflammation was out of the leg. But that removal has been slow. And because of that, it’s changed the thinking about how quickly Hernandez could be back throwing in games. He’s going to need to build back arm strength with a rehab start or two.