Veteran Snyder strengthens Astros at backstop
Catcher responded to hometown opportunity with solid spring
LAKELAND, Fla. -- When Chris Snyder hobbled around first base, unable to feel his left leg last June as a member of the Pirates, he thought his career might be over. He was two years removed from back surgery and had a feeling something was terribly wrong.
"I slid into second base and got up and was hoping I tore my hamstring," he said. "I don't know many guys can say that."
The news was as bad as Snyder had feared. He underwent surgery for a herniated disk in his back a day later and missed the rest of the season. At 30 years old and a veteran of 630 games behind the plate, Snyder knew he'd have a tough road to recovery if he wanted to keep playing.
He pushed hard to get himself in shape and wound up getting a call from the Astros -- the team he grew up cheering for as a kid in Houston -- in January. Snyder signed with the Astros as the backup to Jason Castro and has had a terrific spring. He entered Sunday hitting .275 with four homers and eight RBIs.
"Everything happens for a reason," Snyder said. "The second time around, they definitely did a much better job with the surgery and went about it the right way. I've worked my butt off to get to where I'm at with the rehab and physical therapy and all through spring. I'm here right now, and hopefully I'll be ready for Friday."
The addition of Snyder -- as well as the return of a healthy Castro -- has significantly upgraded the Astros' catching situation from a year ago when they entered the season with Humberto Quintero and Carlos Corporan behind the plate. Quintero was traded to Kansas City last month, and Corporan is in the Minor Leagues.
Castro, the club's No. 1 Draft pick in 2008, missed all of last year following ACL surgery and has also appeared healthy and strong this spring. Houston manager Brad Mills hasn't said how he will split the playing time between Castro and Snyder.
"We haven't really talked about it too much," Castro said. "I'm sure as we get closer to the start of the season, we'll have game plans as far as what we're kind of looking at and how it's going to be split up. Either way, we've got some great guys and are just excited to get going."
Snyder, who has managerial aspirations when he's done playing, admitted there was plenty of uncertainty about how he was going to hold up this spring, but things couldn't have gone better.
"Once you get in the flow and everything is holding together during the games, the recovery has been good and the results have been there as well," he said. "I have no complaints. But it's Spring Training and I've had Spring Trainings where I've gone off and I didn't hit a home run through April.
"For me, there's a little bit more incentive to it. I'm trying to resurrect a career here and hopefully have a chance to do it in my hometown. I think, for me, it's one of those things I'm happy to just be playing right now after going through all this stuff."
Snyder isn't able to say how much of a workload he'll be able to handle, but Castro is expected to get the bulk of the starts. Snyder has caught back-to-back games during Spring Training without any problems and said he could handle nine innings behind the plate, if needed.
"I think for both me and Jason, we've proven a lot to ourselves that we're both ready," Snyder said. "We're both where we wanted and hoped to be coming off the injuries and coming off the season we came off last year. I'm going to be here helping him out and doing whatever I can. We're going to communicate a lot and get the most out of these pitchers as we possibly can."
Snyder has liked what he's seen from Castro, who appeared in only 67 games in his Major League debut in 2010, and he looks forward to working with him this season.
"I remember seeing him in 2010, and from what I remember of him then, the poise is what stands out the most," Snyder said. "He carries himself well and he's got good communication skills and has built good rapport with all the pitchers. Once you knock that bird out of the tree, it's all smooth sailing from there."