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Toronto Blue Jays Travis Snider Suffers Another Setback

Earlier this week, it was reported that Travis Snider has sustained a rib-cage injury which has prevented him from participating in baseball-related activities.   

Blue Jays fans have been left wondering if he will be ready for the start of the season, especially as he often seems to be taking two steps forward but then one step back.

However, anyone questioning Snider’s fighting spirit and ability to overcome the growing list of setbacks he has suffered so far in his major-league career should not be too concerned. This is a young man who overcame losing two grandparents, a close friend and a coach in a two-year span during his teens. 

Worst of all, his mother died in a car accident during 2007 after previously suffering major liver problems.

Although no consolation, matters at least improved on the baseball front soon after as Snider earned his first call-up to the majors in August, 2008. He made a promising start as he appeared in 24 games and finished the season with an impressive .301 batting average, together with two home runs and 13 RBI. 

This resulted in Baseball America ranking him as baseballs sixth best prospect.

The following season, he started like a house on fire with a home run and a double on opening day. However, after a productive April, which included becoming the youngest player in Blue Jays history to hit two home runs in one game, Snider suffered a prolonged hitting slump. 

This resulted in his being sent back to Triple-A in May.

Showing his penchant to battle back, Snider was recalled to the majors in August and the left-handed batter finished the season with nine home runs and 29 RBI in 77 games.

The 2010 season saw Snider endure an injury-riddled campaign, including a two month spell on the DL with a wrist injury. On the plus side, he went on to set career-highs for games played (82), home-runs (14) and RBI (32.)

This is a big year for the Washington State native, who is slated by manager John Farrell to be a full-time starter in the outfield. As such, the last thing Snider needed was another setback as he prepares for the forthcoming season. 

However, Farrell is cautiously optimistic that the 23 year old will be ready for the season-opener as he explained to the Associated Press: “Snider’s shown steady improvement, there’s some resistance testing that he’s going through and [he] is responding well to that.

“We haven’t turned him loose yet as far as beginning a hitting progression, but the fact that he’s making progress is certainly encouraging.”

Snider sustained the injury while playing golf last week and wasn’t immediately sure how serious it was: “It didn’t explode on me or anything. It just progressively got worse in 24 hours and we decided to take a cautious approach to it,” Snider told the Associated Press.

“It’s unfortunate but right now time is on my side and hopefully this thing is short term and we can get it under control and comfortable, back out there doing what I need to do to prepare myself for the season.”

Overall, Snider should have no problems overcoming his latest setback after continually proving that he can cope with any adversity in his life. 

It is this mental aptitude that separates him from the field, as he looks to finally fulfil his promise and elevate his game to the next level.    

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Juan Rivera: Starting Outfielder for the Toronto Blue Jays or Trade Bait?

With Vernon Wells gone and Jose Bautista moving to third base (for the time being at least), it’s all change in the outfield for the Toronto Blue Jays. Only Travis Snider remains from last season’s outfield lineup and he wasn’t even a full-time starter (53 games in left field and 29 in right).

Heading into Spring Training, depending on what you read, newcomer Juan Rivera either has the inside track on a starting position in the outfield or is headed out the door almost as soon as he has arrived. 

The question is: If he does stay, will he be able to help the Jays carry over the momentum from last season’s 85-win campaign?

Although not known for his speed, Rivera is able to get a good jump on the ball and is capable of playing in any of the outfield positions due to a strong throwing arm. 

In terms of his batting style, the signs are promising as he has both a high contact and low strikeout rate, something that will be vital to the Jays as they look to become more multi-dimensional with their batting approach.  

Of course, some Jays fans will be interested in delving deeper into Rivera’s career to see what exactly they are getting. 

Born in Venezuela, he was signed as a non-draft amateur free agent by the New York Yankees in 1996. However, Rivera did not make his Major League debut until 2001, when he briefly appeared in three games.

Rivera received more playing time in 2002, and was named as the Yankees’ No. 1 prospect by Baseball America. The magazine described him as being blessed with excellent defensive skills, above-average raw power and capable of “crushing fastballs.” 

However, it wasn’t until 2003, after a spell in Triple-A, that he started to show his ability.  In 57 games, he hit seven home runs with 26 RBI and a .266 batting average.

Despite his potential, Rivera found himself traded to the Montreal Expos for the 2004 season. 

That proved to be a blessing in disguise as he finally got to perform on a regular basis, featuring in 134 games for Canada’s other team. He finished the year with an excellent .307 batting average and added 12 home runs and 49 RBI.

The Los Angeles Angels thought enough of Rivera that they traded for him following the season. After seeing time as an outfielder and a designated hitter in his first year with the club, Rivera finally became an everyday player for the 2006 campaign. 

With more stability, he averaged a career-high .310 average, together with 23 home runs and 85 RBI. 

Unfortunately, he was unable to build on this as he suffered an injury that kept him out for the majority of 2007, save for 14 games in September.  

However, after the 2008 campaign, the Angels showed their faith in Rivera by signing him to a three-year contract worth $12.75 million. 

During the next two seasons, Rivera was a regular—but erratic—contributor. The best example of this was 2009 when he set career-highs with 25 home runs and 88 RBI, but was also criticised for his poor base-running. 

Indeed, respected baseball analyst Bill James called him the worst baserunner that year, saying his overaggressive tactics cost the Angels an estimated 40 runs.

This might explain part of the reason that Rivera was included in the deal that saw him traded to the Blue Jays along with Mike Napoli in exchange for Vernon Wells. 

Rivera will make $5.25 million in the final year of his contract and he has Bautista to thank for his opportunity to potentially start. If the home run slugger had stayed in right field, the Jays’ new signing would have become the team’s fourth outfielder. 

With all of the trades that GM Alex Anthopoulous makes, it would be no surprise if Rivera has been moved on by the time you have finished reading this article. 

However, if he does stay, he should prove to be a useful option, even if it is only in the short-term.      

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Scott Richmond: Fighting For a Spot in the Toronto Blue Jays’ Starting Rotation

As the baseball season edges ever closer with the start of spring training, the Toronto Blue Jays‘ pitching rotation appears set at the top, with Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow and Brett Cecil slated for the top three spots.

It’s the other two places that raise the most intrigue, with a myriad of options available to round out the rotation. 

Kyle Drabek and Jesse Litsch appear to have the inside track at this stage.  Marc Rzepczynsi is another option and if Dustin McGowan can ever fully recover from his ongoing shoulder issues, some people feel he would also be a capable starter, pointing to his play during 2007 as evidence.

However, another possibility currently flying under the radar is Canadian Scott Richmond, who has been with the organisation since he signed a minor-league contract in 2008. 

After impressing the organisation with 21 starts in Double-A and Triple-A, he was called up to the majors during the same season and made his first start on July 30th, 2008, against the Tampa Bay Rays.  Unfortunately, Richmond lost 3-2 and he went on to lose two of his three starts with one no-decision.

However, after being demoted back to Triple-A, he received another call-up and finally won his first game against Baltimore in September to finish 1-3 with a 4.00 ERA.  While the British Columbia native enjoyed the experience, his call-up stopped him from playing for Team Canada in the Beijing Olympics.

It was a testament to Richmond’s talents that he was selected as the starting pitcher for Team Canada at the World Baseball Classic in 2009.  Unfortunately, he again did not participate, as he was embarking on his first full season as a regular starter with the number five spot in the Jays’ rotation.

Initially, it looked like Richmond, 31, had made the right decision as he came flying out of the gate. April ended with a 3-0 record and a 2.70 ERA as he went on to be named the American League Rookie of the Month. 

It helped that he was confident in his abilities:  “I feel I can keep my team in it even if I struggle a little bit.  I can still buckle down and keep my team close and give the offence and defence a chance to win.” 

Having Roy “Doc” Halladay around was another positive:  “Just watching him go about his business, he’s the best in the game.  As a pitcher still learning the game, it was great to watch and just try and build off the stuff that he did.  But also seeing how he approached games and different teams, so I could go out and try and do the same.”

However, as the season progressed, injuries started to decimate the Blue Jays‘ pitching rotation and towards the end of June, Richmond was the only pitcher who had continually been in the rotation since the start of the regular season.

As a result, perhaps inevitably, Richmond’s statistics started to dip after his hot start. 

However, he remained philosophical even when things weren’t going well: “My old man was panicking and I just said to relax.  I’ve had bad starts at every level.  You’re out there all the time and some days you’re just not going to have your best stuff, plain and simple.  Some days you’re going to get away with it and other days you’re not.”

Finally, the injury curse caught up with him and “the Spider” was put on the disabled list in July with shoulder tendinitis, but not before he enjoyed the best night of his major league career to date.  In a 7-1 victory against the reigning World Series champion Philadelphia Phillies, Richmond had a career-high 11 strikeouts in eight innings.  He finished the 2009 season with an 8-11 record and an ERA of 5.52.

With high hopes for the future, disaster struck in 2010 as the right-handed pitcher suffered a shoulder injury while preparing for spring training and found himself on the 60-day disabled list.  This put him on the shelf for the start of the regular season and he never managed to recover, resulting in no action during 2010.

Today, with the 2011 season looming, Richmond has declared his right shoulder fully recovered and he is now ready to fight it out for a place in the back-end of the starting rotation.

Discussing his aims looking forward, he remains cautiously optimistic:  “My goal is to get off to a good start and show them early that I can contribute to this team and then from there build on each outing and try and get better because [even now] I’m still relatively new to this league.” 

When asked about throwing in the majors, Richmond gives an interesting insight into the mindset of what it takes to be a pitcher: “Some days you’re not going to locate it and you’ll get away with it and some days you’re not going to locate as good and you won’t get away with it.  And some days you are going to locate really well and they aren’t going to hit you.  It’s just different every day.”

“And that’s just like the fastball,” he continues.  “You talk about your changeup, curveball, and slider, starters usually don’t go out there with all four of their best pitches.  They’ve got a couple of good ones and they work on another one and they’ve got to see if they’re working that day and take it from there.  Every day it’s like ‘well, what’s working for me today?’ and you’ll stick with that and you kind of grow as a pitcher throughout and see how that game goes.”

Whatever happens this season, Richmond knows that the organisation will be supportive and give everyone a fair opportunity to compete for playing time:  “You just need to go out there and keep the team in the ball game whether it’s a 5-4 or a 2-1 ballgame.  Just keep it close and give us a chance to win. 

“They’re not expecting shutouts from us.  I mean if you can do that, fantastic [because] we have the ability.  We’ve been doing this our whole lives; when you make it to the big leagues you’ve been doing this 10-15 years.  The only difference is the adjustments have to be made quicker and things like that, but you just try your best to go out there and start quick and go from there.”

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