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Trade, hitters can't make ex-Eagles ace back down

Ryan Snare's determination and curveball make him one of the top pitching prospects in the minor leagues.

By KEVIN THOMAS
© St. Petersburg Times
published August 24, 2002


PORTLAND, Maine -- Ryan Snare's fastball came in high and inside. New Haven Ravens batter Juan Lebron did not appreciate it and took steps toward the mound.

Snare could have reverted to his days as an East Lake High quarterback and eluded his pursuer, but ever the battler, he walked toward Lebron.

Benches and bullpens emptied in the recent Eastern League game, but nothing came of it. New Haven hitting coach Steve Balboni, the beefy former Eckerd College and major-league slugger, held Lebron back.

"To be effective you have to establish both sides of the plate," Snare said after the game. "They were sitting (on away pitches) so I had to come in. The pitch (to Lebron) got away from me."

Snare, 23, recently joined the Portland Sea Dogs, an unexpected stop in his quest to reach the major leagues. The journey started at East Lake and continued (after turning down the Braves, who drafted him in the ninth round in 1997), at the University of North Carolina for three years.

The Reds drafted him in the second round in 2000, good for a $595,000 signing bonus. Snare compiled a 9-5 record in Class A last season and seemed on the Reds' fast track when he was promoted to Double-A Chattanooga this season and carried a 3.00 ERA.

But a funny thing happened on Snare's short pro journey. He walked into the Chattanooga clubhouse last month and, typically, ESPN was on the television. At the bottom of the screen, a trade was announced. The Marlins traded Ryan Dempster to the Reds.

"Hey, that's kind of cool," Snare said.

But he read on.

"Then it says who they traded for and one of the names is left-handed pitcher Ryan Snare. That looked like my name, but it didn't seem real. I asked the guy next to me, 'Was that my name?'

"As soon as I asked, the phone rang and the manager called me in. ... It definitely caught me by surprise."

Traded in only his second season, Snare quickly took the cup is half-full approach. The Marlins' farm system is thin and a solid pitcher can rise quickly.

"It's a good situation," Snare said. "From a business standpoint, as far as me moving up and playing at my highest level, it was for the best."

Florida assigned Snare to Double-A Portland, where pitching coach Tom Signore welcomed him.

"The trade was a robbery," Signore said. "We got Snare and (in other trades) Justin Wayne and Donnie Bridges. Those are three guys who are going to pitch in the big leagues.

"Ryan has an above-average curveball right now. And the thing I love about the kid is there is no fear of failure. He made a couple of bad pitches the other night, but he doesn't stick his head in the sand. He comes back, boom, and he's right on the next hitter."

He is 3-1 in nine games with the Sea Dogs, with 40 strikeouts and 15 walks in 43 innings.

Baseball America labeled Snare as one the Reds' top prospects this season, predicting he would make his major-league debut sometime in 2003.

That is still possible, but it would be in South Florida. Snare's curve is major-league material now. He needs polish on his changeup and more command of a fastball that is between 89 and 91 mph.

"I have stuff I need to work on," Snare said after his game against the Ravens, "and obviously finishing a pitch on the inside half of the plate, against a right-handed batter, is one of them."

Snare rattled the Ravens, not only when he threw inside to Lebron, but earlier when he threw a pitch over the head of John Gall, who had ripped a home run off Snare in the early innings.

"I wanted to let him know that if he's going to be up there first-pitch swinging, he won't always know what's coming," Snare said. The high pitch "was not intentional. You're not going to throw every pitch where you want to. If I did, I would be pitching for the Marlins right now."

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