DUNEDIN ó For a guy who rocketed to the big leagues, Travis Snider certainly has paid his dues since heís been there.
You will find no silver spoon in his mouth and his new manager, John Farrell, seems to understand that. In parts of three seasons, Snider has shown brief glimpses of the promise that brought him first to the majors at the age of 20. But in between those glimpses were many long, dark days of frustration.
ďI think, throughout the last two seasons, Iíve been going through a lot of that adversity, whether it was injury or performance or not being an everyday player,Ē said Snider on Monday. ďIíve learned from that. This year, itís a new staff, a new manager and more of a new direction for the organization.
ďItís exciting for me to know Iím going to be given the opportunities as I earn them.Ē
Until he shows he canít do it, Snider is the Blue Jaysí starting left fielder. He will be out there game after game, with the occasional day of rest against nasty left-handed pitchers.
ďHe has all the ability to play left field and hit for some power, hit for better average than weíve seen so far,Ē said Farrell. ďIt starts with him feeling our trust in him and creating an environment where, if he makes a mistake, he doesnít have to look over his shoulder. We commit to him and put him right back in the lineup.Ē
Snider will tell you he grew up a great deal playing under Cito Gaston but, the truth is, Gaston didnít get the best out of his budding star. For whatever reason, it was not an easy relationship to fathom, especially for a kid barely out of his teens. That said, Snider is not about to off-load his problems on somebody else.
ďThe biggest thing Iíve learned the last few years is that thereís a lot to be learned after you get to this level,Ē said Snider. ďAs a young competitor you want to be out there every day. What I had to learn was that thereís a lot you have to do and many adjustments you have to make to earn the playing time.Ē
In his final 10 games last September, Snider hit .341 with five home runs and eight RBIs, about a quarter of his entire seasonís production. He wants to carry that hot streak into 2011.
ďFor me, itís really the first time Iíve had this kind of an opportunity coming into spring training and itís something Iíll never take for granted. Itís not as if theyíre handing me a job, but they are presenting me with an opportunity.Ē
Snider hit leadoff at times and he hit No. 9 at times, with several other places in between in his first three seasons. Farrell plans to find him a spot in the bottom half of the order and leave him alone.
ďThe more consistent we can be with him in terms of his place in the lineup, in terms of his place on the field defensively, the more stability we can create around him will build some constants in his mind so that he can become established,Ē said the new manager.