Bucs' Snell settles into regular routine

| Monday, March 23, 2009

BRADENTON, Fla. — To Ian Snell's disappointment, there was no dancing in the aisles Sunday at McKechnie Field when the Pirates played the Reds.

This is, after all, spring training and not the World Baseball Classic, in which Snell spent the past three weeks playing for Puerto Rico.

"Over there, you got people dancing in the aisles, playing drums, whistles are going off," he said. "It was fun over there while it lasted. Now I have to get my mind set to pitch and help this team win."

Snell got off to a rough start in his first game back with the Pirates. He gave up six runs and nine hits in 4.1 innings in a 6-0 loss. A blister on the side of his big toe on his right foot forced Snell to make an early exit.

Snell said the sore is no cause for concern, and neither is the subpar outing in just his second start with the Pirates this spring. Snell said he "couldn't get loose" and he "felt kind of awkward" when he took the mound for the first time since his last spring training appearance Feb. 26.

"It's spring training," Snell said. "It's not the season. I'm not worried, and neither should anyone else. I haven't thrown in five days. It's hard to come out when you're not in a normal routine to go and throw."

Snell went 0-1 with 2.25 ERA in two starts — his most recent being March 16 — in the WBC.

Pirates manager John Russell said he wasn't concerned with Snell's performance yesterday because of the transition Snell made from pitching in the World Baseball Classic to a spring training game. Russell was particularly pleased with Snell's changeup and his inside pitches.

"I knew it was going to be an outing coming away from the WBC," Russell said. "I wouldn't say it's a letdown, but he had a pretty emotional ride there. I was happy he got his work in. I think he's gonna be fine. I saw some good things out of him even though he gave up six runs."

Despite pitching just 6.1 innings with the Pirates this spring, Snell — who was 7-12 with a 5.42 ERA last season — likely will be the No. 2 or No. 3 starter. General manager Neal Huntington last week said of Snell and Zach Duke that "they're not locks, but they certainly have cemented inside tracks."

Snell is right on track considering he put in the same work with Team Puerto Rico that he would have done at spring training. In the meantime, though, he faced tougher competition and had a rewarding experience.

"The fans and that atmosphere was much different than what it is here in the United States," Snell said. "It's like they're really, really passionate about the game and it makes you want to go out and perform for them. I had a great time."

Puerto Rico was eliminated in the second round of pool play after Team USA pulled out a 6-5 victory, but not before Snell was able to appreciate the culture and represent someone very special to him.

"It meant a lot because it was for my dad," Snell said. "It wasn't that I was trying to fake and be something that I'm not. That's the way I grew up. Nobody really knows because that's the way I grew up. I don't talk about it and I don't care to talk about it with other people. My dad is Puerto Rican, and I just wanted to honor him and represent him on the team and that's what I did."

Additional Information:

Today's game

Pirates vs. Rays

1:05 p.m. · McKechnie Field, Bradenton, Fla.

Radio/TV: None. (The game is available at mlb.com .)

Pirates probable starter : RHP Zach Duke

Rays probable starter : RHP Jason Hammel

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