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Seven in the seventh is heaven

Seven in the seventh is heaven

Travis Snider, the prized Toronto Blue Jays rookie whose hitting has been in free fall since the middle of last month, has decided to forego in-game counselling by manager Cito Gaston in an attempt to break out of his slump.

It is an interesting development in the maturation of the 21-year-old, a staple in left field for the Blue Jays as they continue their surprising quest for top spot in the American League East.

Yesterday afternoon at Rogers Centre against the Cleveland Indians, 22-year-old left-hander Brett Cecil became the third pitcher to make his major league debut with Toronto this season and the AL East front-runners celebrated by breaking out the big bats.

Led by a 3-for-4 performance by designated hitter Adam Lind, who knocked his sixth home run of the season and drove in five, the Blue Jays (19-10) rode a seven-run seventh inning to a 10-6 triumph over the Indians (10-17).

"It's definitely not what I anticipated," said Lind, among the AL leaders with 29 runs batted in. "I was just hoping to stay here all year for the first time. That was really my goal."

Heading into the game, Gaston offered some thought provoking comments on Snider, the team's 2006 first-round draft choice who entered the Cleveland contest batting .097 (3-for-31) over his last 10 games.

Gaston, who also acts as the team's second hitting coach behind Gene Tenace, has dispensed advice all season to Blue Jays hitters in the dugout as they prepare for an at-bat.

That included Snider - at least until last week's road trip into Kansas City where the rookie told the manager he thought he was suffering from information overload and wanted to dispense with the in-game chats.

"Travis is kind of on his own on that one right now," Gaston said. "He felt like there was too much information right now, so we're just kind of letting him go, see what he can do.

"Some guys can do it [take direction during a game] and some guys can't."

Gaston said Snider is an important part of Toronto's future and that he has no intention of taking him out of the starting lineup unless he notices a slump starting to wear on him.

"You've got to give him a good long look," Gaston said. "But if it starts to affect him really that bad, then we have to take a look and say, 'Hey, maybe we need to get him out of here. Maybe we need to sit him down a little bit, play him once in a while.' "

Snider was on fire at the start of the season, with a .348 batting average (.913 slugging) through the first eight games. Seven of his eight hits were for extra bases, including three home runs.

But as pitchers learned that Snider has trouble handling the off-speed stuff, the stocky batter's power numbers have plummeted.

He hasn't struck a home run since April 13th, and over the span of 17 games heading into yesterday's contest had only managed three extra-base hits.

Against the Indians, Snider enjoyed his first multi-hit effort since April 24th with two singles in four at-bats, a sign his new strategy is starting to pay off.

"I was kind of at the point where it was starting to get in my own head, and I was starting to question things I was going up there and doing," Snider said. "I needed to take a step back and kind of take a deep breath and relax out there."

Injuries to starters Jesse Litsch and Ricky Romero have forced the Blue Jays to raid their minor-league system for emergency backups.

That's how the left-handed Cecil found himself starting for Toronto yesterday after posting some gaudy numbers at Triple-A Las Vegas where he was 0-3 with an 8.31 earned run average.

Against the Indians, Cecil held his own, recording six strikeouts over six innings, allowing two Cleveland runs (one earned) off six hits. He also hit three batters.

He left the game with a no-decision.

The win was picked up by reliever Brian Wolfe, who pitched to two batters in the top of the seventh.

The Blue Jays were trailing 6-3 heading into the bottom half of the seventh when they took flight, scoring seven runs off six hits.



NOTES Toronto pitcher Scott Richmond of North Vancouver, B.C., has been selected winner of the American League rookie of the month award. Richmond, 29, went 3-0 last month with a 2.70 earned-run-average in four starts. ... With their 16 hits in Monday's 9-7 loss to the Indians in 12 innings, the Blue Jays have become the first team in the majors to reach the 300-base hit plateau. It was reached after 28 games, the quickest in team history.

NEXT Tonight in Anaheim, 10:05 EDT against the Los Angeles Angels.

PROBABLE PITCHERS Jays RHP Roy Halladay (5-1, 3.68) v. Angels RHP Anthony Ortega (0-1, 5.56).

TV Rogers Sportsnet.

TOMORROW Jays RHP Robert Ray (0-0, 4.76) v. Angels RHP Jered Weaver (2-1, 3.13).

Robert MacLeod

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: May 6, 2009

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