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Blue Jays manager: Snider's path could mirror Bautista's

| Saturday, March 16, 2013, 8:18 p.m.
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole delivers against the Twins' Aaron Hicks during the first inning Saturday, March 16, 2013, in Fort Myers, Fla.

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Toronto manager John Gibbons won't be surprised if outfielder Travis Snider, who never caught on with the Blue Jays, reaches his potential with the Pirates.

After being selected with the 14th pick of the 2006 amateur draft, Snider rose quickly through the minors. Tabbed a can't-miss kid, he was 20 years old when he made his big league debut with the Blue Jays on Aug. 29, 2008.

But instead of flourishing, Snider spent the next four years going back and forth between the majors and Triple-A. Finally, the Blue Jays gave up and traded Snider to the Pirates in July.

“There's no question the talent's there,” Gibbons said. “Sometimes it takes a little time.”

It reminds Gibbons of another player familiar to Pirates and Blue Jays fans: Jose Bautista.

“Bautista's a perfect example,” Gibbons said. “He was bouncing around, and it took him awhile to get it going. Sometimes what happens is they give up on you too soon. But if you're in the perfect spot and they've got time to give you a legitimate shot, that's when guys usually get it going.”

The Pirates drafted Bautista in the 20th round in 2000. They lost him in the Rule 5 draft, then reclaimed him in 2004. He showed flashes of potential but was never given a chance to settle into an everyday role.

In August 2008, the Pirates gave Bautista to the Blue Jays for a player to be named, who turned out to be backup catcher Robinzon Diaz.

Bautista went on to lead the majors in home runs in 2010 and '11. Diaz played in 43 games for the Pirates and never was heard from again.

Good outing by Cole

Gerrit Cole didn't have his best stuff Saturday but still did a solid job in what might have been his final outing before being sent back to minor league camp. The right-hander worked four innings, gave up a run on five hits and struck out four.

“I had to pitch a lot more today,” Cole said. “I did start to get in a rhythm in the fourth but just ran out of pitches. That's something I can take away from this, that I got stronger as the game went on.”

Cole gave up a run in the first inning. Aaron Hicks caromed an infield single off Cole's glove, stole second and scored on a groundout.

After that, Cole escaped three jams. The Twins were unable to score despite having a runner on third base with one out in the second and fourth innings. In the third, with runners on first and second, Justin Morneau flied out and Ryan Doumit struck out.

“It was a good growth day for Gerrit,” said manager Clint Hurdle, who turned aside a question about whether Cole will be included in the next round of cuts.

With about two weeks left in camp, it's the time when pitchers who are set for the starting rotation get longer outings, leaving fewer opportunities for prospects. Management already has indicated Cole will begin the season at Triple-A Indianapolis.

Planet of the aches

Management continues to take a cautious approach with reliever Tony Watson, who was bothered by a sore lat muscle early in camp. The left-hander had been penciled in to pitch Sunday against the New York Yankees but instead will work in a minor league game. Watson said he no longer is feeling discomfort in his upper back. ... Charlie Morton (elbow surgery) will pitch live batting practice Sunday at minor league camp. ... Chase d'Arnaud (torn thumb ligament) will be examined Monday by Dr. Thomas Graham, an orthopedic surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic.

Grilli returns

Closer Jason Grilli was back in camp Saturday after pitching for Italy in the World Baseball Classic. He appeared in two games and allowed three runs on three hits in 3 23 innings.

Grilli has not pitched since March 7, when he got a save against Mexico. He is eager to get back into action with the Pirates.

“I'd like to see some hitters and get reacquainted with that,” Grilli said.

Grilli admitted he was surprised that he didn't get to pitch in Italy's final game, when it blew a three-run lead in the final two innings against Puerto Rico. Italy manager Marco Mazzieri later said he didn't want to risk overusing Grilli.

“I told him it didn't have to be a save situation for him to use me; I just wanted to pitch,” Grilli said. “I thought he was going to bring me in for the eighth, when the heart of the order was coming up. I wanted to pick up the (bullpen) phone and call him, ‘Put me in. I know these guys.' But I respect the decision. I'm saving my bullets for what ultimately is the bigger picture, which is closing games for the Pirates.”

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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