Pirates' starter Ian Snell running out of time

Rob Biertempfel
| Thursday, June 25, 2009

Ian Snell is clinging -- just barely -- to his spot in the Pirates' rotation.

Snell will make his next scheduled start Sunday against the Kansas City Royals. After that, nothing is certain.

After being bounced in the third inning Tuesday against the Cleveland Indians, Snell is 2-8 with a 5.36 ERA. The right-hander has one minor-league option remaining.

"At some point, we're going to have to make a decision about, do we continue with him in the rotation, do we put him in the bullpen or do we option him and see if we can get those adjustments made down there?" general manager Neal Huntington said Wednesday.

"It's not like it's do-or-die in his next start. But at some point, we've got to see the performance carry from the bullpen to the field. We need to see him execute."

Sinking slowly
Ian Snell's stats under three different pitching coaches:
Season Coach W-L ERA IP H BB SO
2006 Colborn 14-11 4.74 186.0 198 74 169
2007 Colborn 9-12 3.76 208.0 209 68 177
2008 Andrews 7-12 5.42 164.1 201 89 135
2009 Kerrigan 2-8 5.36 80.2 87 44 52

Last year, the Pirates waited until July 5 before optioning inconsistent lefty Tom Gorzelanny to Triple-A Indianapolis. Gorzelanny returned for a brief stint in the bullpen this season before being sent back to Indy's rotation.

Management is pleased with the side work Snell has been doing with pitching coach Joe Kerrigan. But they want Snell to consistently attack the inner half of the plate with strikes instead of nibbling with pitches outside the strike zone.

"The things we try to emphasize to all our young starting pitchers is to control what you can control, and consistency," Huntington said. "Consistency of your routine, your preparation, how you go about your process, your pre-pitch, your post-pitch, your pregame, your postgame.

"In Ian's case, sometimes the consistency of the preparation and the routine and the execution escapes him. He gets worried about things which are beyond his control."

Snell is working with his third pitching coach in as many seasons. In 2007 under coach Jim Colborn, Snell went 9-12 with a career-best 3.76 ERA and a career-high 177 strikeouts after going 14-11 with a 4.74 ERA and 169 strikeouts in the prior season.

"Colborn was more laid back, 'Go out there and get 'em,' " Snell said. "Last year (under Jeff Andrews), it was too much strategy. 'You've got to do this and do that. You've got to keep 'em thinking.' Joe (Kerrigan) is a little bit of both, so it's a little bit confusing.

"Three different pitching coaches, three different mechanical things. I think I've changed more than anybody on this team, mechanics-wise. It's been a struggle for me."

Kerrigan recently helped Snell revert to many of his previous mechanics that made him successful in 2007. The changes seemed to aid Snell's confidence, if not his statistics.

"Sometimes, I feel like if I could just be left alone and not have to worry so much about what I have to do mechanically or where I throw the ball, I'd be fine," Snell said.

"I'm not going to change (mechanics) anymore. I'm not going to be a (jerk) about it, but I'm tired of people telling me, 'Change this, change that.' Let me go out there and just throw the ball where I want as hard as possible, like I used to."

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