03/08/07 8:20 PM ET
Notes: Snyder vying for final spot
Righty realizes he has to pitch better than he did Thursday
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
The veteran swingman is in a crowded derby of candidates that includes, among others, Manny Delcarmen, Craig Hansen, Devern Hansack, Nick Debarr and Bryan Corey. Snyder offers intriguing versatility because he can spot start and pitch in long or middle relief.
And there's also the fact that he's finally healthy. Snyder can't remember another Spring Training in which he came to camp without thinking about an injury. Once talented enough to be the seventh overall pick in the 1999 First-Year Player Draft, Snyder might finally be at the point where has a fighting chance to live up to at least some of his potential.
"I understand where I stand physically now," said Snyder. "I'm not wondering every day when I come out whether or not I'm healthy, or whether or not this pitch is going to hurt, or any of that stuff. I'm really trying to focus on refining my pitches and executing them."
Snyder knows that he needs to execute them a little better than he did in Thursday's exhibition start against the Blue Jays, when he gave up five hits and two runs over 2 1/3 innings.
"Not his sharpest day," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "He didn't have the real good sink. He was kind of, I don't want to say fighting his curveball, but it looked like he was trying to reach back and throw a little bit better curveball than he needs to."
That said, Francona has been on record several times saying how intrigued he is by Snyder. After being plucked off waivers by the Sox last June, Snyder did show some flashes of brilliance. The most notable example was when he fired seven shutout innings of two-hit ball against the Blue Jays on Sept. 1.
There is a recent precedent for the Red Sox finding a hidden gem -- perhaps a late bloomer -- off waivers. That was precisely how they got Bronson Arroyo back in 2003. After proving himself as reliever, Arroyo wound up vaulting into the Boston rotation and helping the 2004 team win the World Series.
Snyder doesn't think that comparison is off-base, although he did confess he has no clue how to play the guitar.
"Stuff, size, even our makeup and our character is similar," Snyder said. "If the Red Sox see at the end of Spring Training a need for me to fill in a role similar to what he had done, I'd be a happy person."
In fact, Snyder said that if he had his druthers, he'd rather pitch out of the bullpen for the Red Sox than start for another team.
"I'd prefer to stay here with the idea that I could fill whatever role needed to be filled on that given day, primarily because I wholeheartedly feel that this team has a chance to contend, as good as any team out there, for a World [Series] championship," said Snyder. "That is definitely a goal of mine before my career ends, to have an opportunity to do that. I would prefer to be a role player than necessarily having a chance to go elsewhere and start."
Rotation plans: Conventional wisdom is that the Red Sox will open the season on April 2 with Curt Schilling on the mound in Kansas City. Josh Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzaka would likely pitch the second and third games of that series. And Tim Wakefield said Tuesday that he's been told he'll pitch the second game in Texas, following No. 4 starter Jonathan Papelbon.
However, Francona isn't ready to make any of his rotation plans formal. At least not yet.
"We haven't announced it, we certainly hope we communicate with the players pretty well," said Francona. "There's no reason for us to announce the rotation yet, even if it looks like it does. We just don't need to do that yet. Our guys pretty much know what to expect."
If Francona already has things pretty well set, why not just announce it?
"It just makes one less thing I need to take back in case something happens," he said. "Maybe it's silly. I just think we wait until we make sure we get these guys a little more stretched out with no hiccups along the way, and then we can do it."
Pitching schedule: In his first two outings of Spring Training, Papelbon piggy-backed Wakefield and pitched in relief. The plan will change going forward. Wakefield will start on Monday night against the Yankees. Earlier that day, Papelbon will throw a simulated game of roughly 50 pitches.
The next time around the rotation, Papelbon will pitch on March 17 against the Reds, with Wakefield taking the ball against the Orioles in Fort Lauderdale a day later.
Lefty Jon Lester will continue his progression toward an exhibition game when he pitches a simulated game on Sunday at City of Palms Park. Lester is slated to pitch the Minor League opener on March 16, and perhaps pitch for the Red Sox after that.
How they drew it up: When J.D. Drew belted one into the gap in the fourth inning on Thursday and raced to third for a triple and then scored on an errant throw, you got an idea of the vision the Red Sox had when they signed the right fielder to a five-year, $70 million contract.
"I think he sees the field very well," Francona said. "You watch him in the outfield, he doesn't have to throw the ball 100 percent because he moves his feet, he gets it where it's going. When he runs the bases, he's got really, really strong instincts. I enjoyed watching him today. He legs out the triple, he moves in the outfield with ease. It was a fun day to watch him today."
Clement starts throwing: Right-hander Matt Clement, who had his labrum and rotator cuff operated on last September, has started what will be a very gradual throwing program. Before Thursday's game, Clement played catch at a distance of 45 feet.
Heavy hearts: It was a tough day for Francona and Schilling. Both men had close ties to longtime Phillies coach John Vukovich, who died Thursday at the age of 59.
"It's confusing," said Francona. "You're standing out there on the field doing the job you love, thinking that you could wish maybe time could somewhat stand still for a minute. It's just hard to figure out. He's a unique person. You had to be around him. He affected so many people in the game, myself included. Our hearts certainly go out to Bonnie and the family."
Vukovich was Francona's third-base coach during his four-year stint as manager of the Phillies. Schilling was also on that team, and considered Vukovich a father figure.
"He was kind of a surrogate father to me. I lost my father in 1988," said Schilling. "I did not have that prominent or dominant male figure in my life for a couple of years. I think it reflected in the way I acted, the way I conducted myself at different times. When I went to Philadelphia, he made an effort to get involved.
"There's no question in my mind that I would not have stayed in the big leagues had it not been for him. He was the guy who taught me about preparation. He was an incredible, incredible man."
Coming up: The Sox will bring sluggers David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez to Friday's exhibition game in Clearwater, Fla., against the Phillies. Left-hander Kason Gabbard will pitch. First pitch is slated for 1:05 p.m. ET.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.