Pirates' Snyder tries to end all-or-nothing cycle
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Pirates catcher Chris Snyder has been putting in a lot of extra work this spring, especially with his bat.
He belted 15 home runs and drove in 48 runs last season while playing in 105 games for the Arizona Diamondbacks and Pirates, who acquired him July 31. But Snyder also struck out 94 times in 319 at-bats and hit a combined .207.
And, in his 38 starts behind the plate for the Pirates, he committed three errors (all fielding) and threw out 5 of 17 runners (29 percent) attempting to steal, with one passed ball.
"You work on everything in the spring," Snyder said, "but one thing for me I want to improve on is being a little bit of a more all-around hitter. The last couple years, it's been kind of all-or-nothing. I've hit the ball and driven in some runs, but the average has gone down and the strikeouts have gone up.
"And I'm working on everything behind the plate. Receiving and calling the game, being a little bit more vocal and throwing to the bases more."
Snyder, 6 feet 4, 242 pounds, had a 240-game errorless streak snapped last year with Arizona. It was the third-longest such streak in major league history and the second-longest in National League history.
He took over as the Pirates' starting catcher upon his arrival, replacing veteran Ryan Doumit.
Before being dealt to the Pirates along with infielder Pedro Ciriaco and cash, Snyder, 30, had spent his entire career with the Diamondbacks. In exchange, Arizona got D.J. Carrasco, Bobby Crosby, Ryan Church and surrendered $3 million to compensate for Snyder's salary.
Snyder, making $5.75 million this season as part of a three-year, $14.25 million deal he signed with the Diamondbacks, missed the final three months of the '09 season with a back injury that required surgery. He has never played in more than 115 games in a season in his seven-year career.
The fate of Doumit, 29, has not been determined. He will earn $5.1 million this season, and the Pirates have actively shopped him this spring. He was one of the National League's best-hitting catchers in '08, when he batted .318 with 15 homers and 69 RBIs in 103 starts, but he has slumped the past two seasons. His durability as a catcher has been an issue, and he has been a defensive liability in right field.
"As we've seen with Ryan, the more he catches, the more fatigued he gets, the more the defense suffers," general manger Neal Huntington said. "Chris is not going to catch 130, 140 or 150 games, so there's going to be a good number of games available for the backup catcher."
If the Pirates keep Doumit as Snyder's backup, they likely will open the season with two catchers on their roster. But the team is considering the possibility of carrying three, and that extra spot could go to either Jason Jaramillo or Dusty Brown.
"We keep trying to puzzle the bench together and we have to figure out how they're all going to fit," Huntington said. "... In an ideal world, you probably don't want to carry a third catcher."
Jaramillo, 28, has been on the opening-day roster as the backup catcher the past two years. He hit .252 in 63 games two years ago, with three home runs and 26 RBIs. But he struggled to a .149 average last year, with one homer and six RBIs while splitting the season between the Pirates and Class AAA Indianapolis.
Brown, 28, has played in 13 major league games with the Boston Red Sox, hitting .267 with one homer and three RBIs.
"It's a tough situation because I want to be here and I feel like I can contribute," Jaramillo said. "I feel like I'm a good asset behind the plate. But, at the end of the day, it's not my call. I'm looking forward to making it as hard on them as possible."
Left-hander Joe Beimel (sore left forearm) successfully completed a bullpen session Tuesday. Left-hander Scott Olsen (sore left hamstring) threw a 30-pitch, two-inning session against live hitters at Pirate City in Bradenton. Both pitchers remain on schedule in their return to pitch progressions, according to the team.
• Left-hander Brian Burres, making his first start this spring after two relief appearances, retired the side in order in his two innings in the Pirates' 5-2 win Tuesday against Minnesota in the regularly scheduled game. He has allowed three hits this spring in six innings. "I've tried to keep the ball down as much as possible and get ahead of the hitters," said Burres, 4-5 with a 4.99 ERA for the Pirates in 13 starts last season.
• Right-handed pitcher Brad Lincoln started the "B" game on an adjacent field. He worked two innings, allowing one hit and two walks in a seven-inning game won by the Twins, 4-2.
• Steve Pearce made his first appearance at third base this spring in the "B" game. "I'm trying to make the club, and the more positions you can play, the better chance you have of making the team," said Pearce, who also has been used at first base and in right field as well as designated hitter this spring.
First Published March 9, 2011 12:00 am