05/03/09 2:10 PM ET
Snider getting defensive for Jays
Young outfielder learning intricacies of playing in left
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
Snider's performance was a testament to how far he has come defensively, learning the ins and outs of left field after years spent in the opposite corner. Not only that, but it was a satisfying showing for the young player, who has been laboring in the batter's box of late.
"It's not usually the part of the game I'm used to contributing in," Snider said on Sunday. "For me, given the situation, I've had to make some adjustments in my game and the kind of player that I am, knowing that offensively I haven't been swinging the bat as well as I'd like to."
In the extra-inning win over the Orioles, Snider's slump persisted with an 0-for-5 afternoon. Entering Sunday, the left-handed-swinging rookie had posted a .179 average with no home runs and just two RBIs over his past 12 games.
It has been a rough skid for Snider -- a talented 21-year-old hitter -- but he was able to use his arm and his glove to help Toronto to a win on Saturday.
"He had a great day out there," Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said. "He made some great defensive plays out there -- probably saved the game for us a couple of times out there."
Snider's first contribution came in the third inning.
With Baltimore's Brian Roberts standing on first base and Toronto holding a 3-1 lead, Adam Jones lined a pitch into left field. The speedy Roberts bolted around second base and headed toward third, while Snider closed in quickly on the roller, leaned and corralled it with a smooth grab. Snider immediately came up firing, but Toronto's defense wasn't aligned for a throw to come in to third base. Knowing that, the rookie left fielder sent the baseball toward the bag on a hop, giving third baseman Jose Bautista enough time to snare it and apply the tag on Roberts for the inning's second out.
"The way that the play was set up," Snider explained, "they thought the ball was going to the wall and there was going to be a cut home. I had a good enough break on it and had a good enough angle to cut it off, where I didn't even need to spin; I could just crow hop it and throw right to third base.
"Playing left field, everything is right in front of you. So you see Roberts rounding second base and, knowing Jose was not on the base, I threw it there on one hop just to give him a chance to get there. He ends up making the adjustment and the throw was on line.
"It was just reactionary."
Given the way the rest of the frame unfolded -- the Orioles plated two runs before the third out was recorded -- Snider's play loomed large in the end. Snider also came through with a pair of impressive catches to halt would-be rallies for Baltimore before the game's conclusion.
In the fourth inning, while the game was stuck in a 3-3 deadlock, the O's had runners on first and second with two outs against Jays rookie right-hander Robert Ray. Roberts lofted a pitch into shallow left field, and Snider made a sliding grab to rob the veteran second baseman of a game-changing hit.
Snider came through again in the seventh. Cesar Izturis opened the frame with a leadoff single, stole second and later advanced to third base on a passed ball, giving Baltimore another prime scoring opportunity. With two outs, Nick Markakis drove a pitch to the warning track in left-center field, where Snider made a running, leaping catch to end the threat.
Snider is quick to say he still has a lot to learn about manning left field, pointing to taking better routes as an area he is always working on. During batting practice, Snider will often practice reading fly balls off the bats or he'll have conversations about fielding with Toronto first-base coach Dwayne Murphy.
Murphy joined the Blue Jays last June as a first-base coach, and he doubles as an outfield instructor. Prior to moving to the big league club, Murphy spent time as a coach within Toronto's Minor League system, where he also worked with Snider.
"That's been big for me, having him up here," Snider said. "We have worked together for three or four years now. From an outfielding standpoint, I know what he's looking for, he knows what type of player I am and we have a lot of fun out there during batting practice."
Snider, 21, spent most of his time in the Minor Leagues in right field, and he patrolled that position often this past spring while Jays right fielder Alex Rios was away for the World Baseball Classic. A little more than a month into this season, though, Snider said his comfort level is the same in either corner now.
"I feel very comfortable in left field now after being in right field for most of my career," Snider said. "There was an adjustment period last year, but I was able to get most of the differences figured out."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.