April 22, 2016

NEW YORK (AP) Blake Snell woke up Friday morning at the team hotel in Virginia, ate breakfast and began to focus on pitching several hours later for Triple-A Durham.

A top prospect in the majors, he then got a call from his manager. The call that every young player hopes to hear.

Snell wasn't starting Friday night at Norfolk. Nope, he was starting Saturday for the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium in his big league debut.

''I liked the sound of pitching tomorrow,'' Snell said.

A season after zooming through the minors, the 23-year-old lanky lefty arrived in New York, in time to play catch on the field and meet his new teammates.

Rays outfielder Steven Souza Jr. asked Snell to do something in particular, trying to help him settle in amid the whirlwind. The rookie complied.

''Took a deep breath,'' Snell said.

Erasmo Ramirez had been listed to start Saturday for Tampa Bay. He wound up as the winning pitcher in relief Thursday as the Rays outlasted Boston 12-8.

Rays manager Kevin Cash said the timing ''just seemed right'' to bring up Snell.

Cash said it is expected the 23-year-old lefty will make this spot start and then go back to the minors. Snell pitched briefly for the Rays in spring training, and has gone 1-1 with a 2.51 ERA and 21 strikeouts in 14 1/3 innings over three starts in Triple-A.

Cash said he didn't expect the setting to overwhelm Snell, adding, ''the anxiety and excitement of making your first major league start, everybody has that.''

Snell will be recalled to fill the roster spot of reliever Danny Farquhar, who was optioned to Durham after the Rays' 6-3 loss Friday night.

Last season, Snell pitched at three levels in the minors, reaching Triple-A and combining to go 15-4 with a 1.41 ERA. He struck out 163 in 134 innings.

As for what fans can expect to see, he said: ''A 23-year-old kid having fun.''

Snell is from Seattle, and his mom is traveling cross-country to watch him. His girlfriend and other friends and family members plan to attend. His father will be away, coaching a junior college team in Canada.

Even before his first pitch, they'll see something odd: a pitcher wearing No. 4.

Snell said that's always been his favorite number. Rays coach Jamie Nelson will give it up for the newcomer, with any compensation ''to be determined,'' Snell said.

The previous lowest number worn by a Tampa Bay pitcher was 11, by Hideo Nomo. Toronto's Marcus Stroman wears No. 6, one of the few pitchers to sport single digits.

''I know pitchers don't do that,'' Snell said. ''I kind of thought, `why not?'''

Snell spoke outside the Rays' clubhouse, in a hallway at Yankee Stadium about a half-hour before the game. This was his first visit to New York, a trip that began earlier in the day and included a flight to the city and a traffic jam.

All set in motion by that call he got at noon.

''That's when the roller-coaster started,'' Snell said. ''I don't know when it's going to end.''

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