Padres Ace Blake Snell Challenges Angels on Sunday, Himself Every Day

Lefty keeps chasing excellence to be the best version of himself

The Padres beat the Angels 4-1 on Sunday afternoon at the Peoria Sports Complex. 2nd baseman Jake Cronenworth continued his solid Spring showing with a double, a walk and two runs batted in.

However, as is the case with all Cactus League games, the final score is insignificant. What’s important is how the projected starting lineup is looking.

Lefty Blake Snell, who’s in the hunt to the San Diego’s Opening Day starter but will certainly not be lower than the 2nd man out, was on the mound against one of baseball’s most potent lineups.

The Angels ran out Shohei Ohtani, Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon … heck, surefire 1st ballot Hall of Famer Albert Pujols was hitting 6th. Snell doesn’t just back down from that kind of a challenge … he relishes it.

“Honestly, this is the most excited I was to face a lineup,” says Snell. “This is how you get a true understanding of where you’re at and how good actually are doing. It gives you an idea of how ready you are, really, because that lineup is stacked, man. They’ve got hitters who can put the ball in play, that can hit it over the fence, it’s a really talented lineup.”

Snell threw 3.1 shutout innings and punched out three while only giving up two hits. However, he had to work awfully hard in a few spots. In the 3rd inning, Snell loaded the bases on a hit, a walk, and an error by centerfielder Brian O’Grady. He recovered to get Rendon to pop out on the infield and Justin Upton to ground out to 2nd base to end it.

The shutout is good. But Snell, always hard on himself, expects more.

“I mean, I’m more upset at the fact I’m walking three. I’m getting ahead the falling behind, just very inconsistent,” says Snell. “There’s just a lot there that I need to go dissect. I’ll watch video. I’ll look at what I was doing. When it comes to why I’m inconsistent, that’s what I’m more focused on finding.”

For most pitchers just keeping that L.A. lineup off the scoreboard over three-plus innings is a solid outing. Snell isn’t most pitchers. He wants to be the best version of himself that he can be.

Even if he never finds it.

“I think the best part about trying to understand what the best me is is I’ll never know. It’s just something to chase. I feel like, even when I’m at my best, like, is it the best? I don’t know. But I feel like chasing to be better and chasing to be as elite as you can be every day, that right there is the best part about trying to be the best. But, I’ll never know when the best me is the best me. People will have their opinions, their thoughts, but I’ll never know. But I’ll keep chasing it.”

The Padres also got some good news on the injury front. Ace Dinelson Lamet, who hasn’t thrown in a game since suffering an arm injury in the final week of the 2020 season, has been on a slow progression during Spring Training.

He’s back. On Wednesday, Lamet will make his 2021 Cactus League debut against the Giants. He likely won’t be ready to make the Opening Day roster but this is a positive step in the return of one of the game’s most dominant starting pitchers.

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