Citing a need to "polish the rough edges," the Cleveland Indians on Friday sent rookie infielder Cory Snyder down to their Waterbury farm team in the Double-A Eastern League.
Cleveland writers had dubbed Snyder the city's "White Hope." The 22-year-old former Canyon High, BYU and Olympic star had hoped to become one of only a few major league players to avoid minor league service.
Snyder's Spring Training
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI Avg. 10 22 2 4 1 1 0 2 .182
Instead, he'll remain the hope of the future.
"He's going to be a star for the Cleveland Indians," Manager Pat Corrales said. "But since we're not going to jump from where we finished last year (last in the American League East) to first place, we would prefer to let him play every day in the minors. When we're ready to challenge for the top, he'll be with us. If we had chance to finish first or second, it would be worth a gamble. But that's not going to happen."
Said Snyder, "I was a little down, but there's nobody I can get upset with. The toughest part of the whole thing was saying goodby to the players. I was a little surprised they did it so early, but I guess that's the way it goes. It's over with and it's good to know where I'm going."
It should be easier than where he has been. It was rough for Snyder since he took aim at the first pitch of spring training three weeks ago. This was a guy who had never met a pitcher he didn't like. Or a pitch.
The first three pitches he saw in his collegiate career, nobody on the playing field saw again.
He homered in his first at-bats against Nevada Las Vegas and hit 73 in three years, the most in such a span in NCAA history. He hit .432 at Brigham Young University, then turned professional when Cleveland drafted him No. 1 last June.
But first, he played for the U.S. Olympic team and batted .400 in five games. He had two home runs and seven runs batted in.
From there, he took his hot bat to the Florida Instructional League Southern Division, where he won the triple crown (.390 average, 14 home runs, 53 runs batted in) in 46 games.
Prior to joining the Indians for spring training in Tucson, he spoke confidently of his chances against big-league pitching.
"I don't care who they are. They still have to throw the ball through here," he said, indicating his strike zone.
That they did. But the results shattered Snyder's confidence.
He appeared in 10 games for the Indians and batted just .182, with four hits in 22 at-bats. He scored twice, doubled, tripled, drove in two and made one error.
"I was pressing," Snyder conceded. "It was the first time I was ever tense playing baseball. I haven't played the way I can play. I was not playing like myself. I've never hit this bad . . . ever. I was not getting a lot of at-bats. I was taking extra batting practice.
"I had been giving the pitchers too much credit because they were big-league pitchers. Now I know I've got to go out there thinking they are just another pitcher. I can't worry about their names. I can't worry whether they've been in the big leagues 10 years or one year. I need to get my confidence level up."
To return that lost confidence, Cleveland chose a Double-A spot for Snyder rather than Triple-A.
"There is not a whole lot of difference between Double-A and Triple-A," Corrales said. "But what we want to do is give him a good year under his belt so he'll be ready. We know he has talent, but he has to relax. That's what we're aiming for. He's never faced this caliber of talent. Next time we see him, he'll be a finished product."
At least one aspect of Snyder's future appears to have been decided in Tucson. The Great Second Base Experiment seems to be over. The Indians tried him there, but he played more at third and even in the outfield one game.
"He's the type of athlete who can play anywhere. But I see him as an outfielder or third baseman for us," Corrales said.
"I just want to play," Snyder said. "And you never know. If I get hot, I might be back sooner than people think."