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Travis Snider turning heads in Vegas

Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Snider has made an impressive start with the Las Vegas Triple-A 51s. FILE: REUTERS/Mike Cassese

Mike Cassese/Reuters

Travis Snider is sending the Toronto Blue Jays' brass an early-season message.

The 24-year-old slugger, who lost the battle for Toronto's left-fielder job to Eric Thames at spring training, is off to an excellent start with the triple-A Las Vegas 51s.

"My ultimate goal is to be an everyday player in the major leagues. Sitting here and thinking I should be there, isn't going to get me there," said Snider. "Doing what I got to do and working hard and continuing to refine parts of my game is really the focus that I have."

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That renewed focus seems to be paying off for the Jays' former first-round pick, who has bounced back and forth between the majors and minors over the past four years.

Through 13 games, Snider is hitting .431 with 18 RBIs, which ranks him second in both categories in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. He's third with a .745 slugging percentage and also has a .508 on-base percentage, seven doubles, 12 runs scored and eight walks.

While he's had spurts of such productivity before, this time he's doing it with a high level of confidence and maturity.

Las Vegas hitting coach Chad Mottola said he thought Snider may have shown his disappointment after being demoted. Instead, he has had a great attitude since joining the team.

"I thought there were going to be a couple of days where just human nature takes over, but it didn't happen," Mottola said. "He's just gonna let his play dictate everything. You can just see it in his personality, the way he carries himself, day in and day out. He's just a consummate pro.

"He's not worried about the other stuff he can't control. You always talk about things like that, but the fact that he's doing it is really impressive."

Snider knew there was a decent chance he'd start the season at triple-A.

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"From what was expressed to me very early in camp, it was a competition where it was his (Thames) job to lose," said Snider. "I think he deserved that opportunity based on the way he played. You tip your cap and move on."

In exhibition play with the Blue Jays, he hit .271 with an OBP of .340 and led the team with 16 RBIs. Thames, meanwhile, batted .359 with a .408 OBP.

The six-foot, 235-pound Snider has had several chances with the Blue Jays but consistency has always been an issue.

"I've shown I can produce at that level. But it's producing for 162 games," Snider said. "Whether the opportunity to play 162 games has been there or not, you still have to take responsibility for the times that you struggle and learn from those experiences."

In 799 career major-league at-bats, Snider has a .248 average with 28 homers and 104 RBIs. In 1,711 minor-league at-bats, he has a .310 average with 76 home runs and 343 RBIs.

"For me moving forward is to continually refine my approach at the plate," he said. "Becoming a more patient hitter, as I was early on in my career. And now that the mechanical flaws are out of my swing, I feel comfortable just going out there and playing the game instead of thinking about it."

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Snider credits the time he spent working last summer with Mottola for his improved "mechanical and mental" approach at the plate.

"That's a big step for me. In the past I would come down and make major changes, like last year," Snider said. "Finally we got to the point where going into the off-season we started to see the results. I came into spring training and felt very comfortable with the mechanics of the swing."

While Internet posters have opined that the Blue Jays would be better off trading Snider, the Kirkland, Wash., native says he shuts out such silly distractions.

"It's no secret that guys get traded and things happen. If the day comes where I end up somewhere else, I'll be ready for that step," he said. "But at this point in time I'm happy here with the organization. I love the coaching staff at all the levels. I grew up with this organization."

Las Vegas coach Marty Brown still believes Snider has a bright future.

"Travis is still young, he's only 24, and he has tremendous upside," he said. "He had a good spring, and he's coming off some real positives. Defensively he is sound, he's a good base runner. All parts of his game are sound, with the exception of consistency on offence.

"That's what we're looking for him to do, getting off to a solid start with something he can build on."

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