Jays option slumping Snider to Triple-A
Rookie sent down to work through issues at the plate
BOSTON -- Travis Snider insisted that he had not been worrying about a possible demotion. As his current slump persisted, the Blue Jays rookie had not been walking back to the dugout thinking that the next out he made could mean a trip back to the Minor Leagues.
Following Thursday's 5-1 loss to the Red Sox, though, the Blue Jays decided to option Snider back to Triple-A Las Vegas to sort out his offensive issues.
Prior to the game, Snider stood with his arms crossed in front of his locker inside the visitors' clubhouse at Fenway Park, hardly looking stressed out about his problems at the plate.
Snider compared his current situation to when he was trying to make the team in Spring Training.
"If I worry about that, it's going to affect the way that I'm playing," Snider said, "and it's going to affect the mood that I'm in. I try to be as positive as I can, no matter if I'm hitting .240 or .320. You want to be the same guy in the clubhouse. You want to be the same guy in the dugout."
Lately, though, Snider had not looked like the same guy in the batter's box.
After an impressive spring and a strong start to the season, the 21-year-old Snider has looked lost at the plate. Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston admitted this week that the young left fielder might have already been returned to Las Vegas if it weren't for the strong performance from the team's offense as a whole.
On Friday, Toronto heads to Atlanta to open a three-game Interleague series against the Braves. Without the use of the designated hitter, Adam Lind will play left for the Blue Jays, which would have left Snider on the bench. With Snider now out of the equation, utility players Russ Adams and Joe Inglett are top candidates to replace him on the roster.
Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi hinted earlier this week that the club was considering sending Snider to the Minors during the Interleague schedule to keep him playing regularly. Gaston cited that as a reason behind the club's decision to send Snider back to Triple-A.
"We want him to go down and play a little bit. He's not playing that much here," Gaston said. "This kid is going to be a big part of this organization here. ... We want him to go get some at-bats. He's struggling a little bit, and we don't want his head to get too messed up and lose confidence in himself.
"Even though we've sent him out, we haven't lost confidence in him. All these guys have been up and down before in their careers."
Snider -- used only when the Jays face right-handed pitchers -- probably understood the club's reasoning, but he was hoping to avoid the long flight to Vegas. Even though he's still learning to adapt to playing in a platoon-like situation, Snider wanted badly to remain with the Blue Jays.
"Any time that you're at this level, you never want to go back," said Snider, who was the 14th overall pick in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft. "But playing every day is something I've done my whole life. It's definitely been a change, and it's been one of those things where you have to make the adjustment if you want to stay at this level.
"I know the organization has my best interest at heart, and whatever they decide to do, when that time comes, it's their decision. I know that the only thing I can control is the work that I put into it and going out there and trusting my abilities on the field."
During Spring Training, Snider hit .381 with four home runs and 10 RBIs in 22 games, claiming a spot on the Opening Day roster in the process. His success carried over into April, too. In his first 14 games, Snider hit .310 with a .383 on-base percentage, a .643 slugging percentage, three home runs, five doubles and 10 RBIs.
In the 17 games since that stretch, Snider hit just .185 (10-for-54) with a .214 on-base percentage and a .204 slugging percentage. Over that period, he had no home runs, just one double and two RBIs. Snider hasn't homered since launching two against the Twins on April 13, and he had just one RBI in his past 11 games.
Over his past six contests, Snider hit .200 (3-for-15) with eight strikeouts among his 12 outs. On Sunday, though, Gaston identified a flaw in Snider's swing mechanics. The left fielder was hesitating in the middle of his swing and was late on pitches as a result. After working with Gaston and hitting coach Gene Tenace, Snider went 1-for-3 against the Red Sox on Wednesday.
Gaston liked what he saw from Snider.
"I thought it was better," Gaston said. "It's just a shame that he's probably not going to play in Atlanta."
Snider said he felt a difference in his at-bats against Boston.
"From a comfort level, I definitely felt better," Snider said. "In the last month or so, as we've identified, I was really being too muscular about it and trying to use your whole body instead of just allowing your hands to work and allowing yourself to get in a good position to hit without adding anything extra to it."
Snider said it was more of an approach issue at first. He felt like he was swinging at everything and was falling prey to offspeed pitches more than he should have. As he tried to work on his approach, Snider's swing mechanics began to fall apart, and he felt like he was taking in too much information from the coaching staff.
Snider quickly found out that -- unlike in the past -- he couldn't fix this problem by himself.
"Trying to make the adjustments on my own wasn't working," Snider said. "Really, just allowing the coaches to kind of be more hands-on with what's going on and trusting them to lead me down the right path has allowed me mentally to kind of take a step back and say, 'Hey, we're doing what we need to do to take the next step.'"
The next step will be playing every day in the Minor Leagues again.
"It's not a setback," Gaston said. "It's just, go back, get yourself together and come back and help this club."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.