Snider back in Jays lineup with no illusions

Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Travis Snider talks to a coach during practice at their spring...

Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Travis Snider talks to a coach during practice at their spring training facility in Dunedin Florida, February 14, 2011. (REUTERS/ Mike Cassese)

KEN FIDLIN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:07 PM ET

DUNEDIN Travis Snider slipped quietly back into the Blue Jays lineup on Saturday. No hype, no wild predictions, just a good day at work for a guy who understands how humbling the game of baseball can be.

Three years ago, Snider was the posterboy for a Blue Jays future that fizzled under general manager J.P. Ricciardi. It wasnt Sniders fault by any means that he was pushed through the minor-league system too rapidly.

But through injuries, his own immaturity and the demands that were placed on his young shoulders, he has not yet lived up to the early promise. There have been flashes but even Snider acknowledges that only through consistency will he ever tap his potential.

This training camp began with an Oh, not again moment when Snider irritated a ribcage muscle just before camp while playing golf. Now, two weeks later, thats behind him. He started in left field against the Tigers, went 1-for-2 with a single in his first at-bat. Sunday, hes scheduled to DH against the Pirates in Bradenton.

It felt good today, he said. This last week Ive been chomping at the bit but the lines of communication with John (Farrell, the Jays manager) and the training staff have been great. The message has been clear not to push it.

From the first day he got here, Snider has been assured by Farrell that he is the everyday left fielder. He doesnt have to look over his shoulder to see what or who might be gaining on him. Snider doesnt look at that as security, just more incentive to keep working hard.

The opportunity to play every day is something I have to earn continually throughout the season, he said. Now, to be able to get back out on the field and get into the swing of things has been a good step.

While there may be some frustration and disappointment at the way these last three years have played out, the time hasnt been wasted.

I feel like, as the experience continues and I start to see these pitchers more and more, its a continual chess game. But you start to understand how they want to attack you. Youve seen their pitches, you know the movement. The more you see them it pays off in the long run.

I feel like there have been some exploitation of my weaknesses as a hitter. Im learning from the way guys have pitched me and the way Ive allowed my own mechanics to stop me from adjusting.

Im trying to learn from all those mistakes.

Thats an outlook that pleases GM Alex Anthopoulos.

Travis has a maturity beyond his years, said Anthopoulos. I always say when Im talking to Travis that I dont feel like Im talking to a 23-year-old kid.

In his own quiet way, Snider is revelling in the clubs confidence in him, making him understand that if he goes 0-for-4 with a couple of strikeouts, hes not going to pay for it by riding the bench the next day.

I definitely feel more comfortable than in the past, he said. I dont feel quite like a veteran because thats something I still have to earn, but the comfort level is there.

I enjoy competing for a job. Thats not something I take for granted. Every day I come out here, I feel Im competing for that job. But knowing I didnt have to rush back (from injury) just to get those extra few games under my belt was important.

Understanding that the job is going to be there for me day in and day out, as long as I continue to earn it, is important to my peace of mind.

Maybe that comfort level will be the key to unlocking all that long-predicted potential.


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