Notes from Game 12

Snider4.jpgOne of the main things the Blue Jays have had Travis Snider working on this spring is getting into good fastball counts and then being able to make hard contact with the heater.

Taking that a step further, Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said Snider has been working on pulling fastballs more. On Wednesday afternoon, the young left-handed hitter worked into a couple fastball counts and did take advantage, though pulling the ball was not the way he went about it.

In the third inning, Snider drove a fastball into center field for a single. Then, in the fifth, he took a fastball over the outside portion of the plate and lofted it high above the air over left-center field, a gorgeous, towering solo homer to the opposite field. Snider said it was a step in the right direction for him.

“I think it’s a good sign,” Snider said. “Early on in camp, as we were working on really trying to be ready to pull the fastball, I felt like I was starting to get a little pull happy in the beginning. I’ve been working hard with [hitting coach] Dwayne Murphy and Chad Mottola, the Triple-A hitting coach, and trying to get back to more of a natural rhythm.

“Today was the first step in the right direction, I feel. To make contact, solid contact, twice and drive the ball up the middle and the other way, that’s a good sign for me.”

Snider’s first four games of the spring were rough: six strikeouts in nine at-bats and only two hits along the way. In the 19 at-bats since that stretch, Snider has just three strikeouts and has collected five hits over those seven games. Prior to Wednesday’s showing, he had more strikeouts (eight) than total bases (seven) this spring. That changed in a hurry.

Snider has shown progress and that is because he has been working on specific tasks with his swing and approach at the plate. He lowered his hands a little from last year, hoping to get into a hitting position faster. Snider is also trying to be more selective in the batter’s box, not being overly-aggressive and chasing pitchers’ pitches, especially the offspeed variety.

In the back of his mind, though, Snider knows he is fighting for a spot on the Opening Day roster right now. Results don’t always show the progress he is making within an at-bat in terms of approach or the strides he’s making behind the scenes. That said, results are what earn guys a place on the roster.

“It’s Spring Training, so you keep things in perspective,” Snider said. “As aggressive a competitor as I am, I never want to start off slow, but I think it’s also good for me, as last year was, to experience a slow start and really just finding yourself as a hitter and getting that timing down in the game. … I feel like I’m starting to grasp it and starting to move forward in the right direction at the right time.”

And, Snider says he is starting to feel a little more comfortable and locked in at the plate.

 “I’ve really started to feel comfortable in the box, taking pitches,” Snider said. “Coming into today I’ve felt like I’m starting to see it better. I’m starting to get a feel for my at-bats, counts, what pitches are being thrown and, as you start to see the ball better, that’s when you start to get that timing and the ball starts to look a little bit bigger up there. That’s what we’re going for as hitters.”

SAD NEWS: You may have noticed that Blue Jays shortstop John McDonald has been absent from a few more box scores than normal this spring. That is because Johnny Mac has gone home to Connecticut to be with his dad, Jack McDonald, who was recently diagnosed with advanced liver cancer. Johnny Mac rejoined the Jays in Florida on Wednesday. CLICK HERE for a nice tribute written by Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.

TAKE IT SLOW: Blue Jays pitching coach Bruce Walton said there is no established timetable for RHP Dustin McGowan to begin adding bullpen sessions between his starts. Right now, McGowan’s daily throwing program looks like this: game, long toss, flat ground, long toss, long toss, game. McGowan is scheduled to pitch two innings in a Minor League game on Friday. McGowan’s comeback is one of the better stories in camp this year, but it’s looking more and more like he will need to begin the season on the disabled list.

BIRD FEED: LHP Jesse Carlson (left knee) did not throw off a mound on Wednesday as originally planned. Gaston said the left-handed reliever is holding off for a “few more days” before testing his knee. … Prior to Wednesday’s game, Toronto outrighted LHP Sean Henn to Triple-A Las Vegas. Henn was out of options, so the lefty cleared waivers before being reassigned to Minor League camp. … LHP Brian Tallet started against the Orioles on Wednesday and looked sharp in four innings. The lefty concentrated on throwing his two-seam sinker more than anything else and the results were good: no runs, one hit, three strikeouts, no walks, six groundouts. Tallet remains the favorite to open the season as the fifth starter. … Gaston noted on Wednesday that he will name a primary closer before the season, ruling out the possibility of a shared role. It says here that lefty Scott Downs will open as a setup guy and the closer’s job will fall to either Kevin Gregg or Jason Frasor. My money would be on Frasor, but we’ll see. … Downs, Gregg and Frasor each logged one shutout inning in Wednesday’s 4-1 win in Sarasota. Downs picked off a runner at first base to end the sixth inning. … RHP Shawn Camp also turned in a 1-2-3 fifth inning. … SS Alex Gonzalez went 2-for-4 out of the lineup’s second spot on Wednesday. … OF Jeremy Reed went 1-for-3 to actually lower his spring average to .385. … DH/1B Randy Ruiz is batting .467 after going 1-for-4 and DH/1B Brian Dopirak went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts to drop his spring average to .222. Toronto will likely bring one of Ruiz and Dopirak north.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Gaston turned 66 and Downs turned 34 on this St. Patrick’s Day.

QUOTABLE: “As you start to work on this and you start to work on that, sometimes you get away from just going up there and hitting. I don’t feel like the stress was overwhelming at any point, but as a hitter you know you never want to feel in-between up there at the plate. I think today was a good step in the right direction to just build off.” – Snider

For complete Blue Jays coverage this spring, make sure you’re reading bluejays.com and following me on Twitter at @MLBastian. You can also find spring photos on TwitPic.com.

~JB

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3 Comments

Rumor is the Mets are looking for a short stop, since Jose Reyes now appears he’ll be out longer than expected. Sounds like a good potential to trade Gonzalez. McCoy has shown he’s capable of playing at this level and MacDonald provides backup if needed.

All the best to Johnny Mac and family in this difficult time.

My thoughts and prayers go out to Johnny Mac and his family

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