Jays' Snider the epitome of perseverance

Toronto Blue Jays batter Travis Snider watches his double against the New York Yankees. (REUTERS/...

Toronto Blue Jays batter Travis Snider watches his double against the New York Yankees. (REUTERS/ Mike Cassese)

Ken Fidlin, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:04 PM ET

Travis Snider's career path has taken so many abrupt, very public turns over the past four seasons, it's hard to think of him as a 23-year-old still trying to find his way in the game.

 

He's been in the big leagues for parts of four seasons, force-fed prematurely at times against his best interests, enduring multiple crises of confidence.

His latest disappointment, a dismissal to Triple A at the end of April to renovate his swing and his approach at the plate, is behind him, just another brick in the wall of experience that has toughened him mentally and broadened his self-awareness.

The suggestion that many of these lessons might better have been learned on a slower, more patient development program may have merit but at this point, what's done is done.

It might have ruined some kids but Snider, at 23, is probably right where he is meant to be, his confidence at an all-time high and his approach more big-league ready than at any time previously.

Not only has he hit up a storm since he came back on July 4, but he's provided an interesting option in centre field, where both Rajai Davis and Corey Patterson have been below average. He was in centre and batting sixth Friday night in the opener of the Jays' three-game set against the Rangers.

"It's been fun to start learning a new position," Snider said. "It's a bit easier to track a ball off the bat in centre but the ball in the gap has caused me some problems, especially down in Vegas. As a corner outfielder you're used to seeing and tracking the ball in the gap, slicing or hooking, but you don't get that same view from centre. It's something that comes with repetition."

Repetition is also at the root of the swing changes that were the cause of Snider's demotion to triple-A back at the end of April.

"You know, nobody ever wants to get sent down but now I'm able to stand back from that letdown and see what it might mean to my career," Snider said. "I was able to work with (hitting instructor) Chad Mottolla very closely and he and I really clicked. For what we were trying to accomplish, it's probably a little easier to have done it away from the big league setting but even then, the competitor in you doesn't want to fail in an at-bat."

Now, with a greater understanding of his own swing, Snider believes he will have a better handle on what he needs to do when adjustments are necessary going forward.

Since his return on July 4, Snider is 20-for-60 with 11 extra-base hits, including a pair of homers, 17 RBI and a .917 OPS.

"It's been a consistent approach," said manager John Farrell. "He's covered pitches on both sides of the plate. More than anything, he feels confident in himself and his ability from a physical standpoint and a fundamentals standpoint. He's in a good place."

By adding centre field to his portfolio of possibilities, Snider has not only helped the team but has made himself a more valuable property.

"The challenge for him is that there is more territory to cover," Farrell said. "We have an ability to help with that ... with positioning, understanding tendencies. We've seen that in left field, he has very good reads and routes and those are playing out in the brief time he's been in centre field. He's able to take advantage of an above-average arm, both in strength and accuracy with some plays he's made already.

"He's made that adjustment pretty darn well.

As important as all these things are to the Jays and to Snider's crooked career path, what means most to him is that he's enjoying himself. His favourite player growing up in Washington State was Ken Griffey, Jr., and now he can pretend even for a little while that he's following in his idol's footsteps.

It's expected that Davis will be in centre Saturday and Sunday but Snider is in no danger of riding the pines. He's been pushed and pulled and prodded and poked virtually since he signed on as a professional at age 17.

Now he's finding his way, right on schedule.  


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