Snider comes back in big way

Blue Jays outfielders Eric Thames (left), Travis Snider (right) and Rajai Davis (back) celebrate...

Blue Jays outfielders Eric Thames (left), Travis Snider (right) and Rajai Davis (back) celebrate their win against the Red Sox at Fenway Park in Boston, Mass., July 4, 2011. (JIM ROGASH/Getty Images/AFP)

MIKE RUTSEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:35 PM ET

BOSTON - Travis Snider is back with the Toronto Blue Jays. I know, I know. You've all heard that before.

Despite being just 23 years old, Snider has had about as many comebacks as a shark has teeth. But soon after the jets roared overhead at decrepit Fenway Park on a beautiful July 4 afternoon, Snider's fourth kick at the can began in earnest and with renewed hope that finally the child prodigy will find a lasting home.

Monday's game against the Boston Red Sox couldn't have started any brighter for the Jays' 14th overall pick in the 2006 June MLB draft. In the second inning, Snider followed a solo home run by second-baseman Aaron Hill with a sharply hit ball to the gap in left-centre.

Running full tilt, Snider almost blew an ankle rounding first base as he caught a cleat and came close to falling flat on his face.

“I think I was so excited I could hardly make it to second base,” Snider joked.

But he regained his balance and made it to second. He came around to score on a bloop single to centre by shortstop John McDonald to pump the Jays to a 3-0 lead in a game where they would roar to a 7-0 lead only to hang on and win by a 9-7 margin.

Snider wasn't a one-man gang for the Jays at Fenway, but he came close to it as he went 3-for-5 with the first three double game of his career.

Afterwards he was pleased but subdued.

“It’s a good day, something to build off of,” he said. “I liked what I felt at the plate the first three at-bats (all doubles) and hope to improve day in and day out.”

He said the three hits came off three different types of pitches.

“All three were a little different. The first one was a fastball, middle away and I stayed on it,” he said. “The second one was an off-speed pitch and I was able to stay back and keep it fair down the line. The third one, they were trying to come in with a cutter and I was able to hook it down the line.”

Snider’s base-running on his first double was the perfect metaphor for his career — great starts followed by near face plants.

Snider's youth has always been one of his saving graces, but now he has reached the age and stage where results are expected. Organizations can only wait so long on any prospect and if it isn't quite Snider's time to put up or shut up, then it's getting close.

The Jays, of course, would never admit that.

“I don’t think either he or anyone else has discussed it being a make-or-break situation,” Jays manager John Farrell said. “What’s most important is that he’s gone down and made the necessary fundamental adjustments. He’s carried them out in a game and executed. A great sign to that is he missed 13 days because of a concussion and stepped right back in and was able to reproduce those adjustments. That is also a sign they are entrenched, a little bit more second nature, a little more natural right now and if he maintains that approach we feel he’s better equipped to handle the different type of pitching that’s going to be thrown his way.”

Snider is no dummy and knew that through spring training and April — where after 25 games with the big club he was hitting .184 with one homer and 12 RBIs — that something was dreadfully wrong with his swing. He was flying open, was coming around on the ball and had almost nothing in the way of power.

So, when he was sent down to Las Vegas, there was no woe-is-me hanging of the head, just a desire to get better.

“It definitely wasn’t something I was anticipating ,but having gone through it before it was a chance to embrace an opportunity going down and do what I needed to do to re-learn my swing, to rebuild some things that mechanically had gone wrong over the month that I was up,” Snider said. “As the season wore on there were some definite mechanical flaws and I wasn’t able to make the adjustments at this level. They had to do what they had to do and for me it was a chance to go down there and get away from the distractions or the pressures or whatever you want to call it at this level and get in there day in and day out and re-learn what got me here.”

While at Las Vegas, Snider spent hour upon hour working with hitting coach Chad Mottola, restructuring his mechanics from the bottom up. The result is Snider adopting an open stance and when he steps he squares up and is in more of a crouch.

“It wasn’t just making the changes to make changes, but feeling a difference in what you’re doing and why things are different and for me it’s a matter of getting in a position where I’m in a good power position before I start my swing,” Snider said. “When I’m swinging it’s more with my hands and it allows me to get the head of the bat to the baseball more consistently than taking a swing that’s typically on one plane and not being able to cover more of the strike zone.”

One game does not a comeback make, but Snider made sure his first step was a positive one.


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