06/25/09 6:07 PM ET
Snell sent down to Triple-A Indy
Struggling right-hander makes decision to head to Minors
By Jenifer Langosch / MLB.com
"I left it up to myself," Snell said, shortly after throwing a side session at PNC Park and just before leaving the Pirates' clubhouse indefinitely. "I wasn't going to allow [management] to say what they want. I told them I want to go down. I just felt like it was the best decision for me and for this team. I went with my gut, and I feel like I need to work on some stuff and I need to do it there."
Though management was ready to let Snell make his next scheduled start over the weekend, Snell met with general manager Neal Huntington on Wednesday night and expressed a desire to leave Pittsburgh, where he felt the environment was too negative for him to be successful.
"I don't want to be a negative person," said Snell, frustrated with what he saw as negativity by the media and fan base directed toward him. "I need to be a positive person if I'm going to be here. I don't want to ruin this team. I just made a better decision for myself and for my career and better for my life. Why not do it now than wait until later when everything blows up?"
Huntington addressed Thursday's roster move as well, and though he confirmed that he and Snell met Wednesday night to discuss the best course of action, he would not go as far as to say that the decision to send Snell to Indianapolis belonged solely to the right-hander.
"We had talked about a lot of things over the last four or five days as a front office and as a coaching staff trying to figure out what would be the best thing for us to help Ian reach his potential," Huntington said. "We talked in depth [Wednesday] night. We talked in depth the night before. I had a conversation with Ian last night, at which time he said he thought it might be the best thing for him to go out.
"Who came to the conclusion first is really not important. What is important is that we're going to help Ian Snell reach his potential. It is still in there. How we reach it, we're not quite sure just yet."
That undoubtedly remains the biggest question.
Few would argue that Snell doesn't have the talent to be a successful Major League pitcher, evidenced by the modest success he had in 2006 and '07. But since the halfway point of the '07 season, that ability has not translated into results. Snell is 11-27 with a 5.24 ERA in that near two-year span.
Snell's last start, which actually came after three quality outings, was a 2 2/3-inning appearance on Tuesday in which he threw 50 pitches before being pulled in the third.
So, the right-hander was asked, what does he need to work on in Triple-A in order to regain his footing?
"Nothing," Snell answered, his tone turning a bit irritated. "You [reporters] don't understand it and nobody's going to understand it unless you play baseball. I'm just going to go down there, get my thoughts together and do good. Whatever anybody thinks, that's totally fine. I'm just going to get my thoughts together."
Actually, there is a bit more.
On the mound, Snell's focus, as laid out by management, is going to be simple: find consistency in throwing strikes and attack hitters on the inside part of the plate. Additionally, though, the Pirates need Snell to overhaul his mentality so that he can put himself in position to succeed.
"Sometimes a player won't let his ability come through," Huntington said. "Sometimes a player can be his own worst enemy. In this case, we have to find the right buttons to push for Ian to be successful on all fronts.
"The most successful Major Leaguers block [the negativity] out," continued Huntington. "The ones that aren't able to, it wears on them. I think for Ian, it's been the better part of a year and a half where he hasn't felt like he's been supported by the fans because he's struggled and he hasn't been able to block that out. We all have to deal with stress in our jobs every day. Some people deal with it quickly and effectively. Some people have to work on it."
With Snell, who had one option remaining, back in the Minors for the first time since 2005, the Pirates have recalled starter Virgil Vasquez to assume a rotation spot. Whether Vasquez pitches in place of Charlie Morton, who continues to be bothered by a nagging left hamstring injury, on Friday or in Snell's spot on Sunday hasn't been determined yet.
If Vasquez were to pitch his way out of the rotation, Tom Gorzelanny and Jeff Karstens would be additional candidates for the starting spot.
As for Snell, who will continue to earn his $3 million salary down in the Minors, his work continues, albeit in a different setting.
"It's me having to be myself and learning to control myself and not worrying about other things," Snell said. "If I have to stay down there for the rest of the year, it doesn't really matter. Whatever makes this team happy and is best for them. I wish all these guys the best."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.