TUCSON - Before the 2005 World Series ended, Chris Snyder’s 2006 season began. From late October on, Snyder was a regular at Chase Field, doing hitting drills and taking batting practice in an attempt to refine his swing.
Maybe the new shark tattoo on the back of Snyder’s left calf is an indicator of his new attack mode.
Early results have been encouraging for Snyder, who has four extra-base hits in his first four spring training games.
He is going long by staying short.
“The big thing was to shorten up my swing,’’ Snyder said Sunday.
“Last year my swing would get very, very long at times. In my mind, knowing I had such a long swing, I had to cheat (to hit) the fastball inside, knowing I couldn’t catch up to it.
“Now, with a shorter swing, it gives me more time to recognize the pitch. I’m not getting out on front and guessing what’s coming. I can wait a little longer to see it and just react to it.’’
Snyder has two home runs and two doubles in eight spring at-bats, leading the team in homers and tied with Justin Upton with four RBIs.
One of his doubles was a line drive off the batter’s eye in dead center field at Tucson Electric Park.
It is a contrast from his full first season in the major leagues, when Snyder hit .202 with 14 doubles, six homers and 28 RBIs in 326 at-bats.
“He’s probably worked as hard as he ever had in his life in the offseason. Every day I was at the park in the offseason, he was there,’’ manager Bob Melvin said.
“He is staying with one thing, not trying to pull too much. He is not trying to do too much, just trying to square it up and hit it hard. He is strong enough that it will take care of itself.’’
Snyder showed his strength in a July 31 game against the Cubs, hitting two homers and driving in a career-high five runs.
With his catching and staffhandling responsibilities, Snyder had a full plate last season before he even stepped to the plate.
“He had a lot of stuff with respect to his (catching),’’ hitting coach Mike
Aldrete said, “meetings with the manager and the pitching coach.
“It’s a very important job to do all that, and it was hard to put the time in to get the swing down, so it just didn’t click right away. He got into habits that were very difficult to break. He worked his tail off this offseason.’’
Newcomer Johnny Estrada is expected to be the primary starter at catcher, and Melvin said he planned to use Snyder, a right-handed hitter, mostly against left-handed pitchers.
Snyder hit .260 against lefties in 2005, with an on-base percentage of .380 and a slugging percentage of .377.
Estrada, a switch-hitter, hit .280 with a .398 slugging percentage against righties last season, making it seem an ideal combination.
“We can pick better matchups with ‘Snydes’,” said Melvin, who gave Snyder the starting job last May.
Snyder, 25, came to the major leagues in August 2004, from Double-A El Paso and has never played at Triple-A, and sometimes the inexperience showed.
“We rushed him to the big leagues out of necessity, before he was ready,’’ Melvin said. “He’ll be fine.”
“I’m just going to go out there and play my game,’’ Snyder said. “That’s all you can do.’’