BRADENTON, Fla. -- Travis Snider has heard he was the front-runner for a starting job before.
That was in 2010, in Toronto. Snider put forth his best major league performance that season with the Blue Jays, hitting 14 home runs in 319 plate appearances with a .255 average.
He enters the 2013 season in a similar situation. The Pirates have indicated Snider will start the season as the primary right fielder. But Snider will not let those indications affect his preparation or outlook, he said.
"I control what I can control, not what they're saying, and focus on what my work task is for that day and what I need to do to get better," Snider said.
Right now, he wants to improve his approach at the plate in two-strike counts. Improvement requires aggression, not protection, Snider said, but that aggression must come in the strike zone.
"When you see something borderline, there's an opportunity to foul that pitch off, keep the at-bat going and wait for him to make that mistake over the plate," Snider said.
Because of the long spring training, manager Clint Hurdle has spaced out the appearances by the starters. Snider said more consistent playing time later in March, when there will be fewer players in camp, will help.
"If there's something that you did the first game, you can improve on the second game," Snider said. "Or if you weren't able to make that adjustment, you go into that off day knowing, OK, this is what I have to work on. For me, it's not getting too caught up early in the results that you're having."
Unlike the regular season, players generally don't study video or scouting reports of the pitchers they face in spring training, and sometimes don't know who will pitch until they see him warming up in the bullpen before the game. That makes the two-strike approach more difficult.
"For example, Alex Cobb did a great job mixing in off-speed pitches early in the count and finished hard late with a fastball in, off the plate that he didn't show the whole at-bat," Snider said of Tampa Bay's starter in Thursday's game. "Those are the kinds of things through video that you can watch and see what he has in his bag of tricks as far as what he's going to do with two strikes."
That's where Snider's thoughts are right now, he said, not on his place in the lineup or the field. The Pirates do not want to play Garrett Jones in right field as often this season, leaving Snider and Jose Tabata as the main options.
"To me, it's nothing that I'm going to take home each and every day and hang my hat on," Snider said of his spot in right field. "Focus for me has got to remain each and every day on what I need to accomplish."
Snider joined the Pirates at the trade deadline last season from the Blue Jays in exchange for Brad Lincoln. He had a .652 on-base-plus-slugging percentage and one home run in 145 plate appearances with the Pirates, but a hamstring injury slowed him after the trade.
"I still think there's some room for improvement as we start to play back-to-back days and get some consistency as far as the playing schedule goes," Snider said. "It's easier for all of us to make that adjustment as far as the timing. That's the one thing thus far that's been a little inconsistent."
Jeff Karstens (biceps tightness) threw 34 pitches in a two-inning simulated game Friday. Now he waits to see how his arm responds.
"[Today] will be the big test and just kind of go from there," he said.
Kyle McPherson, one of the starters vying for a rotation spot, allowed four runs on six hits in three innings in the Pirates' 6-3 loss to the Baltimore Orioles at McKechnie Field.
The first two Orioles batters hit safely, but McPherson escaped the inning allowing only one run. He had a 28-pitch third that curtailed his start.
"Remarkably, all the pitches felt good," said McPherson. "I felt that I had a good feel of every pitch in the zone and the ball coming out of the hand, it felt good."
Bill Brink: email@example.com and Twitter @BrinkPG. First Published March 9, 2013 5:00 AM