Cory Snyder has learned that his powerful arm is as important to the Cleveland Indians as his powerful hitting.
Snyder leads the American League with 10 assists from the outfield this year, after he finished tied for fourth in the league by throwing out 16 runners last year."I take pride in that. I take pride in throwing people out," Snyder says. "I want to be a complete ballplayer."
Yet Snyder doesn't take much credit for the strength in his throwing arm.
"I think that's God-given," he said. "But you have to develop the accuracy. I work on that, making sure I'm coming over the top when I throw. I work on making it a one-hopper so they can handle it when it gets there."
Snyder's hitting was well publicized before he ever made it to the majors. At BYU, he was the first NCAA player to hit at least 20 homers three years in a row, and his .844 slugging mark is an NCAA record.
This year, he has 17 homers, second in the league to Oakland's Jose Canseco with 20, and 46 RBI.
But some of the loudest cheers at Cleveland Stadium have resulted from his defense.
An example came during the Indians' last homestand, when Boston's Dwight Evans was at first base with one out in the eighth inning of a tie game. Mike Greenwell singled to Snyder, and the crowd began screaming as soon as it became evident Evans was trying for third.
Snyder's throw made it to third baseman Brook Jacoby without bouncing, and Evans was tagged out easily.
"I think that was the turning point of the whole game," Manager Doc Edwards said. "That kept us in the game and it pumped us up."
Snyder realizes a throw like that can have as much effect on a game as a home run.
"It's just as important as my hitting," he said. "I take a lot of practice fly balls every day."
On offense, Snyder has been focusing on being more consistent and cutting down on his strikeouts. After striking out 166 times last year, he has fanned 50 times so far in 1988.
He started the year with an eight-game hitting streak, but then he went through a 17-game dry spell in which he collected only nine hits in 56 at bats. He has now hit safely in five of his last six games.
"I don't want to be a streaky hitter," Snyder said. "I think home runs will come in streaks, but I think you can still get your one hit a game even when you're not hitting home runs. A lot of times, home runs come on mistakes by the pitcher. As long as I'm getting my doubles and singles, the home runs will come."
The Indians were off Thursday before opening a three-game series Friday against Seattle. Oakland arrives Monday for the first of four games in three days, and California takes on the Indians in four games starting next Thursday to close out the homestand.
Cleveland went 9-17 in the 26-game series against AL East teams that ended with a 5-1 loss to the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday. The Indians started the series 31/2 games out of first and ended it six games out.
"I think we got a little complacent," Edwards said. "It was like they had the feeling, `This is easy. All we've got to do is show up to win.' Well, it doesn't work that way."