TORONTO -- Throughout his entire career, Blue Jays outfielder Travis Snider has been groomed as a middle-of-the-order-type talent, a guy with extreme power potential who could one day blossom into an offensive star.
While the growing pains have not been particularly easy to overcome for the 22-year-old, who entered Tuesday with a respectable 19 home runs over 491 career at-bats, manager Cito Gaston continues to preach patience, maintaining his belief that Snider will develop into the masher the organization envisioned when it drafted him 14th overall in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft.
"If everything comes the way we think it's going to come with him, with the power that he has, [he will eventually bat in the heart of the lineup]," Gaston said. "He certainly has turned out to be a good left fielder. If he turns out to be who we think he's going to be, he's going to be one of those guys who should hit in the middle of the lineup."
Although Snider has not yet reached that stage in his progression, Gaston, for the sixth time this year, started Snider in the leadoff spot on Tuesday against the Yankees. As was expected with Snider's return from the disabled list on July 30, regular leadoff man Fred Lewis has found himself conceding playing time to allow the youngster to develop.
Snider, who normally bats at the bottom of the order, does not fit the mold of the prototypical leadoff hitter. In fact, even he has been surprised by the occasional shift to the top of the lineup.
"I don't know about the future, but then again, you never really know how things are going to work out," said Snider about seeing more playing time in the leadoff spot. "I'm happy to be in there, whether it's in the one-hole or the nine-hole. As I've said, I don't have to change my approach a whole lot in that spot in the batting order, even though there are ways that people think you should go about it.
"The message from the organization, Cito and [hitting coach] Dwayne Murphy has been the same thing -- get a good pitch to hit and put a good swing on it. Don't worry about taking pitches or trying to go the other way with things and be like some of the other leadoff hitters in the league."
As for whether Snider feels he could hit regularly in the middle of a big league lineup?
"I've hit in the middle of the order my entire life until I got to this level," Snider said. "I haven't lost any confidence in that ability. But with the way things are right now, my focus and concentration are on being a leadoff hitter or an eight or nine hitter. When the situations come out during the game when you have the opportunity to drive in runs, you want to make the most of those opportunities."