Pirates’ Snell eyes personal, team upgrade

By Dejan Kovacevic
Updated: January 2, 2009

PITTSBURGH — Ian Snell sounds prepared for a personal rebound in 2009, including pitching in the World Baseball Classic as a springboard.

He sounds equally eager to see the Pirates rebound as a team, though not necessarily confident it will happen unless management does more to bolster the roster.

“You know what? I’m tired of promising the fans that we’re going to be this or that,” he said in a phone interview yesterday, the day after being chosen to represent Puerto Rico in the Classic. “I’m looking at the other teams in our division loading up, and we really haven’t done anything. We’ve added maybe one player.”

The Pirates have made one major league acquisition, the signing of utility infielder Ramon Vazquez, since finishing 67-95 last season.

Snell cited shortstop Jack Wilson’s recent public call to management to add talent.

“Jack said it best: We need more players,” Snell said. “I want to win. We’ve got some talent, but it’s a pretty young group. We need more.”

Part of improving the team’s performance next season, of course, would involve Snell pitching up to his previous level, something he readily acknowledges. He went 7-12 with a 5.42 ERA, the latter an unsightly swelling from his 3.76 ERA from 2007.

“I’ll be ready,” he said. “I’m really focused on doing well. I’ve changed my diet. I’ve changed my workouts. I’m not doing anything with my right arm other than throwing. And my head is clear, too. I had all kinds of things on my mind, and those are all sorted out. I feel great right now, seriously.”

Snell did not divulge what had been on his mind, but he did say he soon will be baptized as a Christian.

Snell said he had been invited by Puerto Rico for the previous Classic in 2006 but turned it down because he “just wanted to get ready for the season.” This time was different because he felt he could benefit from a head start. The 16-nation tournament runs from March 5-23.

Snell described part of his motivation as wanting to do well for Puerto Rico. Although he is a native of Delaware, his father and wife are of Puerto Rican heritage.

“I’ve been to the island several times, too, and I just love it there. I love the culture, I love being around the people from all over Latin America. And I really love the food. But the biggest thing is that it’s just going to be a good experience. It’s a great tournament and a great opportunity.”

Snell will participate in the Pirates’ voluntary minicamp for pitchers and catchers, Jan. 14-17 in Bradenton, Fla.