Hot-Hitting Snelling Just Wants "To Stay Healthy"

TACOMA - Shhhh. It's a secret. Don't tell Chris Snelling he's reached base in 39 of the 41 games he's played this season. Don't ask him about his team-leading 60 hits or his .564 slugging percentage. And whatever you do, don't tell him his .385 average leads not only the PCL, but all of professional baseball.

There's more that draws Snelling to the game, even after all the years of injuries.

"I'm not interested in stats," the 23-year-old outfielder said. "You can't really control getting hits or anything like that. The only things you can control are your thoughts and your swing, so if you focus on that I think you're going to have some sort of success"

The difference between "some sort of success" and leading all of baseball in batting is what separates Snelling from most Triple-A ballplayers. But then again, most 23-year-olds haven't missed the better part of three seasons due to injury.

Many still cringe at the memory of Snelling's knee giving out against Tampa Bay in 2002, ending a promising season and marking the beginning of the Australian's injury woes.

Knee problems and wrist injuries have plagued the lefty slugger in recent years. In fact, it was a minor knee surgery that delayed his start to the 2005 season with the Rainiers.

Judging by his recent success, it appears that his knee injury is fully behind him and if he's not 100 percent, he's darn close.

"Yeah it feels pretty close." Snelling said. "I don't know if it will ever be 100 percent again but in saying that I don't think I'll ever want it to be because I don't want to get complacent and take being healthy for granted. I've been down that road before, and I don't want it to happen again."

Not many people would ever dream of calling Snelling complacent. He still plays baseball with hard-nosed intensity, and a hustle to his all-around game. He also appears to be in the best shape of his career, a result stemming from cardiovascular work he has added to his training regimen.

"I don't know the reason why I was getting hurt all the time," he said. "There were a lot of excuses coming from people, like 'maybe you should get a little fitter, work on your cardio,' so I did it so there wouldn't be that excuse anymore."

So is this leaner, meaner, Snelling doing anything different at the plate this season?

"I don't think I'm doing anything differently," he said. "I think I've kept the same approach for a long time, just keep the other way and react in."

If he keeps looking the other way and reacting at a .385 clip, the Mariners will have no choice but to see if he can continue his hot hitting 40 minutes north at Safeco Field.

Snelling has a major league stroke and a constant focus on getting better and that attribute does not go unnoticed in Triple-A Tacoma. Rainiers hitting coach Terry Pollreisz notes that Snelling's effort to continue to improve is one of the reasons why the game's leading hitter is like no other.

"Chris is a workaholic," said Pollreisz. "Almost to a fault. He works very hard to create his consistency. He's a gem to work with because he's here everyday and works very hard and he's able to take it into the ballgame. He's very unique."

But Snelling's not hearing any of it. Through it all the lefty remains focused on the task at hand and refuses to listen to critics or pay attention to rumors that he's ready for the bigs.

"I don't really think about getting called up," he said. "You just focus on things that will help the team. The main focus is winning."

But in addition to the main focus, Snelling has some goals for this year.

"Basically, my main goal this year is to stay healthy," said the outfielder. "In every aspect of baseball you can always get better, being more patient at the plate, making better decisions in the outfield, deciding when to take an extra base, or getting a little quicker."

What would serve as a sign that the left-handed line-drive machine is ready for the big leagues?

"Consistency," said Pollreisz, who has worked with Snelling at several stops in the minors. "Staying consistent against the league's top pitchers."

If Chris Snelling can improve in just a few of these areas and combine his consistency with hitting like a man who has three years of hits to catch up on, he won't remain a secret to the rest of the world for very long. So far this season, he's on track.

Is the Miami-born Aussie ready for the big leagues?

"Well, he's more consistent than anyone else right now," said Pollreisz.

Seattle Clubhouse Top Stories