Bowie's Snyder leaves jitters, bullpen behind Flaky closer finds starting to be a calming influence

Minor Leagues


July 20, 1998|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

When Matt Snyder first heard the news, he admits he was a "little stunned."

The Orioles organization wanted him to be a starting pitcher. Immediately.

"After having a lot of success as a reliever, I was a little upset. I didn't understand why," Snyder said.

Now, Snyder not only understands the move, he endorses it heartily. He has evolved into the ace of the Bowie Baysox's rotation and undergone a personality revision.

From the wacky, jittery, loosey-goosey closer, Snyder has turned into the patterned, precision-like Double-A starter who is nearer to the big leagues than ever. Through Saturday, he had not walked a batter in 36 1/3 innings.

Baysox manager Joe Ferguson said discussions about converting Snyder took place two years ago when both were at High Desert. But the shift never occurred because there were no other closer candidates.

"I just think he needed to start so he'd have to use his pitches, set up hitters and learn about his body and himself. You don't do that as a closer," Ferguson said. "This has been a godsend to him."

Snyder auditioned for Orioles director of player development Syd Thrift at Essex Community College just after the 1995 draft. He signed as a non-drafted player a few days later.

He recorded 47 saves at Bluefield, High Desert and Bowie in 2 1/2 seasons and tied the Eastern League record with 67 appearances last year.

"This is the best thing that ever happened to me," said Snyder, 24, who is 3-4 with a 3.59 ERA this year. "I have a game plan and I've learned how to pitch. When you go through a lineup three times, you have to use everything."

A native of Akron, Ohio, who grew up outside Philadelphia, Snyder wants to reach the majors with the Orioles because "they gave me the opportunity nobody else did. That is my first choice and a way of saying, 'Thank you.'

"But if that doesn't work out, I'd love to go to the Phillies. That is my biggest dream."

He has always had a good fastball and curve, but now is judiciously using a split-fingered pitch that he didn't need in relief.

"As a starter, I've tried to calm down a little bit," he said. "You've got to conserve your bullets and energy and take things as they come. But I still get a little hyper; that's my nature."

The hyperactivity flowed over in his last start when he was ejected for allegedly throwing at an opposing batter, then completely lost control.

But, generally, the routine of a starter has sat well with him.

"It was tough at first because I didn't know what to do," Snyder said. "But it's good to do the same things day after day. If you don't, you're not going to survive."

Ferguson said: "This fits his personality better. He's meticulous with certain rituals he goes through. He's better situated now."

Triple-A Rochester

First baseman Bo Dodson was the only Red Wings pitcher to go unscored upon in a 13-3 loss at Louisville. Dodson has pitched three innings and allowed one hit and no runs this season. He is one of 23 who has pitched for the team. Manager Marv Foley missed three games because of the death of his father and the Red Wings lost all three with coach Dave Cash in charge. Cash is 2-4 overall. The team is closing in on its 58-loss total of last season, when it won the International League title. Despite a poor record, the Red Wings are fourth in the league in attendance and have passed 300,000. Richie Lewis' ERA climbed from 3.14 to 4.14 when he permitted eight runs to Louisville. Jim Converse (1-8) is within six defeats of the team record for worst start.

Double-A Bowie

The Baysox lost slick-fielding second baseman Jesse Garcia to Rochester and received Jerry Hairston from Single-A Frederick. Both were hitting .283. Pitcher Alvie Shepherd was activated from the disabled list after making three appearances in Florida, and outfielder Bryan Bogle was released. Johnny Isom tied the Baysox franchise record (held by Willis Otanez) with his 27th homer. Bowie had a better record on the road (22-23) than at home (17-25) entering the weekend. The team went 0-10 at home against opponents from Connecticut in that span, including 0-7 against the Eastern League's top team, New Britain.

Single-A Frederick

With Hairston departed, Carlos Casimiro is likely to move back to second base and a number of players will share third, Casimiro's old spot. Joel Stephens, the outfielder battling cancer, has joined the Keys and is working out. His goal is to have an at-bat this season. The Keys have jumped to No. 1 in Carolina League attendance with an average of 4,237. Frederick's entry in the Maryland Fall League will be called the Regiment and will open Sept. 22 at the Bowie Nationals. The Delmarva Rockfish play at the Delaware Stars the same day in Wilmington.

Single-A Delmarva

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