Blue Jays' left field spot up for grabs

BY foxsports • March 3, 2012

One of the most intriguing competitions for a roster spot on the Toronto Blue Jays' roster is at left field.

That's where Travis Snider, their first-round pick in the 2006 draft, will be trying to regain the position he gave up last season to Eric Thames.

''That's going to be the daily watch,'' manager John Farrell said Friday after his players finished a five-inning intrasquad game in preparation for Saturday's spring opener against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Snider played 49 games for Toronto in 2011, batting .225, an average that has dropped dramatically each of his past three seasons after hitting .301 as a rookie in 2008. His struggles got him two demotions to Triple-A Las Vegas.

Thames, in his first major league season, batted .262 in 95 games last year.

Snider had a double in three at-bats and Thames was 0 for 2 on Friday.

''It's good to get out there and play the game,'' Snider said. ''It gets a little, I don't want to say monotonous, but when you're facing live batting practice you just have to get locked in.''

Ricky Romero, starting his fourth season with the Blue Jays, is their ace, winning 13, 14 and 15 games in his first three years, with an ERA that dropped to 2.92 in 2011.

Romero was accustomed to pitching with minimal run support.

''I thought he did an excellent job of that a year ago,'' Farrell said. ''As he channeled his emotions in the right way, it allowed him to execute on a consistent basis in those tight games. That's what has allowed him to evolve into the pitcher he is now.''

Romero, who pitched the first inning, said he was ''a little excited when I got out there, just to get on that mound and see hitters and see an umpire and all that good stuff. ... You get into game mode.''

At one point he escaped a man-on-third, no-out situation.

''That's where you've got to slow the game down and make pitches. That's what I did. I know it's preseason but I'm a competitor, man. I don't want that guy to score, no matter if it's a practice game or whatever it is. My job is to leave that guy at third.''

Farrell said his three areas of concern as spring training begins, ''is, one, we stay healthy, two, that we get the answers from a personnel standpoint answered and, three, that we set the tone from a mindset from the starting pitchers, and really from pitching overall, to attack the (strike) zone and pitch to contact early.

''There are still jobs to be won but through the first four or five days of spring training everyone's going to get on the field. The guys that start (Saturday), we'll try to get them three at-bats, then we'll look to fill in behind them.''

At the moment, though, ''Everybody's looking for a different color (uniform) to show up and see a different team, across the field,'' Farrell said. ''It'll be good to begin that next phase of spring training.''