TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Nearly two months ago, Major League Baseball was nearing the start of the regular season. For the Tampa Bay Rays, their highly-touted pitching staff was on the cusp of being all the way revved-up for what they hoped would be their best year yet.
“When spring training got shut down I was pleased with where everybody was,” said Rays Pitching Coach Kyle Snyder on a video call Wednesday. “Spring training is a pretty critical time – especially the first 10 days, if you look at history. Everybody was healthy. Everybody was building their pitch counts. The relievers were getting to the point where we were getting a lot closer to back-to-back days and we were a week away.”
Coming off a season where the Rays pitchers collectively ranked second in the MLB in ERA (3.65), allowed the fewest home runs in the league (181) and set a club record with 1,621 strike-outs using 33 pitchers, they have nearly everyone back – including that loaded starting rotation. Blake Snell, Tyler Glasnow, Charlie Morton, Yonny Chirinos and Ryan Yarbrough are all healthy and ready to lead the charge on the pitching front.
On a scale of one to 10 of how good this group will be this year, Snyder, while admittedly biased, rates them at a 9.5.
“It’s a talented group,” Snyder added to further explain his rating of his pitching staff’s potential. “It’s a young group. Over the last couple of years, what our front office and what our scouting department have done and put together has been tremendous. I think the biggest key again is just about health. We’ve thought differently the last couple of years and I think it’s provided us with a competitive advantage.”
As they await the return of baseball, and the opportunity to show what they can really do, Snyder said the most important thing is making sure his guys are staying active and keeping the communication lines open with all of them.
“It’s a collaborative effort between Joe Benge – our head athletic trainer, Trung Cao – our head strength and conditioning coach,” Snyder said. “And then from a throwing perspective, Stan [Boroski] and myself talking to the pitchers. Keeping these guys ready is different for every guy. We operate in an industry now that’s far more case-by-case and not one case fits all. Given that, it takes communication amongst the staff and being sure that these guys, as it relates to each one of them individually, are staying in shape.”
And yes, everyone has been doing their homework and working out as they should.
“I’m very pleased,” Snyder said. “Fortunately I’ve known quite a few of the guys on this staff, minus Nick Anderson and Peter Fairbanks, for multiple years now. I think that gives me a little bit of an edge. Even with some of these guys and the relationships that were developed at the minor league level. I’m pretty familiar with their routine and so the dialogue just kind of happens amongst a lot of these guys kind of effortlessly. We just kind of talk through different things, brainstorm. Especially in a time like now where everyone’s kind of forced to think a little bit differently.”
Snyder is in his third season as pitching coach for the Rays, having previously served the same role with their Triple-A affiliate in Durham, North Carolina.