Snider swinging a hot bat

Blue Jays batter Travis Snider singles against the Pittsburgh Pirates during their Grapefruit...

Blue Jays batter Travis Snider singles against the Pittsburgh Pirates during their Grapefruit League game in Bradenton, Fla. on March 4, 2012. (REUTERS/Mike Cassese)

Ken Fidlin, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:35 AM ET

BRADENTON - Eric Thames scored the first blow on Saturday in the Blue Jays battle for left field, but Travis Snider counterpunched on Sunday.

Thames drove in a pair of runs with a home run and a single in Toronto’s 7-1 Grapefruit League opening win Saturday. Sunday, it was Snider’s opportunity against those same Pirates and he responded with a pair of hits, three RBIs, a stolen base and an outfield assist in the Jays’ 8-5 win.

“It was a good day today,” said Snider. “Had a variety of opportunities in the field, on the bases and at the plate.”

At every turn, Snider and Thames are presented with reminders of their competition for the starting job in left field. It’s something Snider has no control over.

“On the field and even away from the field, I’ve got to concentrate on what I can control,” he said. “I don’t ever go out there rooting for Eric to do bad. It’s a spirit of competition that drives both of us. When you get a chance to start a game or come in off the bench and make some plays, that’s what spring training is about.”

Batting second, Snider doubled, stole third and scored in Toronto’s two-run first inning. He drove in a run with a single in the fourth. In the third inning, he gunned down former teammate Rod Barajas trying to stretch his two-RBI single into a double. “It was funny because (Barajas) almost got thrown out at home (in the second inning) so he said something about being safe. I told him he had the wind at his back and that was the only reason why he was safe.

“(In the third inning) the guys ahead of him on the bases were all burners. I knew McCutcheon was going to be on third base, no problem and Rod was going to be dumptruckin’ around first base, so I was able to backdoor him and catch him sleeping a little bit. He had a (not) nice comment for me when I got up there the next time.”

In the sixth, his slow rolling groundout to the right of the mound scored two runs.

And the battle is joined.

Keep an eye on Laffey

There isn’t a lot of buzz surrounding Aaron Laffey’s bid for a spot in the Blue Jays rotation but if history tells us anything, he could easily be an important piece before the season ends.

Laffey worked his first two innings of the spring Sunday, allowing three hits and a run in the Blue Jays’ 8-5 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The journeyman left-hander is coming off a season split between the Seattle Mariners and the New York Yankees. Right now, he would be, at best, an eighth or ninth option for the five-man rotation but as depth in Las Vegas he could be very valuable. He could also fill a lefty need in the bullpen, if needed.

“I’ve been a swing man earlier in my career in the big leagues and that’s helped and hurt me from time to time,” he said. “But coming here and having an opportunity to start as well and also an opportunity if I don’t fit into the rotation, in the bullpen as well.

“My goal coming into spring training was to make the big league club. I had my best year in the big leagues last year, finished the year strong with the Yankees, pitched in some big games for them, tie ball games and one-run games, so for me it’s just all about being in the big leagues. I feel that I’m a big league pitcher with big league stuff, I think I’ve proven that I have consistency up here at the big league level and for me it’s just about being part of the big league team.

“If not, if I do happen to go to Las Vegas, they told me I would be starting. So, just go down there and continue to work, go about your business every day that you would regardless of where you are, whether it’s double A, triple A, the big leagues, it doesn’t matter.”

Setback for Litsch

Jesse Litsch’s visit to Dr. James Andrews for diagnosis of shoulder discomfort, and the subsequent treatment, has turned into a nightmare for the right-hander.

A seven-day no-throw period has turned into a six-week no throw period as a result of an infection that occurred after an injection Andrews administered.

Litsch visited Andrews in Alabama nine days ago and was told that, while he had no structural problems, he would need to stop throwing for a week. At the same time, he had a PRP (platelet rich plasma) injection that was supposed to speed the healing process. To prepare a PRP graft, a small amount of blood is drawn from the patient, and placed into a special processing kit. This is then placed in a centrifuge and in approximately 15 minutes the PRP is concentrated by 500% and is injected back into the patient at the source of inflammation.

“Jesse had a setback,” said Blue Jay manager John Farrell. “He had a reaction to the injection that caused an infection. As that infection grew, there was a need for an additional arthroscopic procedure to clean out the infection.

“Unfortunately, he is in a no-throw for six weeks. He had to go in for an emergency procedure because the infection was growing in the shoulder and that had to be flushed out.

“There is a minute risk with any injection that an infection could follow and, in this case, it has. He’s taking antibiotics daily now for the next four weeks.

Litsch spent several days in hospital but is now resting at home in Palm Harbour. He is in shutdown mode for the next two weeks. After that he may engage in exercises but can’t pick up a baseball for six weeks.

“While he knows this is the hand that has been dealt him, he remains upbeat,” Farrell said. “He feels better at home but he’s still under the watchful eye of our medical staff.”

Litsch has both started and relieved for the Jays in the past and he had been considered for a spot in the 2012 bullpen but it will be a some time before that could happen.

The Hutch and Drabek Show

By switching Drew Hutchison to a Wednesday start instead of his scheduled date in Lakeland Monday, the Jays accomplished two things.

They gave Henderson Alvarez an extra day of rest and they got Hutchison and Kyle Drabek working in tandem.

“Moving Hutch to Wednesday was really to align it so we could see both guys in one trip,” said manager John Farrell. “Whether or not they continue to align all the way is unclear because the second time through, Dustin (McGowan) will join the rotation so there’s going to be another adjustment that comes down the line.”

This means that Farrell will travel to Bradenton, even though Brandon Morrow and the main body of Jays are in Dunedin facing the Red Sox that day.

“I’ve got a better idea of what Brandon is about and what he’s capable of,” said Farrell. “This is an opportunity to see the things we’re focusing on with Kyle and to see more of Drew. I’ve seen, I believe, just six innings that he’s pitched; five last year and an inning of intersquad. I’m just trying to get a better read on both of them.”

Farrell feels it’s important to get a solid impression, especially of young players, in camp for later evaluation when needs arise in the middle of the season.

“We owe it to the players to get as familiar with them as we can be, to see how they react to certain situations inside a game. Guys can change throughout the year but at least there’s a picture we begin to formulate.

“That’s the beautiful part of spring training and having a guy come into camp for the first time.”


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