Orioles' Snyder Faces Make Or Break Season

BALTIMOREBrandon Snyder was supposed to be Baltimore's catcher of the future. Then the Orioles moved him to third base and first base. Now he's just trying to make sure that he still has a future in the organization.

Snyder, 24, reported to spring training in Sarasota, Fla., with the other position players to fight for a spot on the 25-man roster. It's more likely that he'll be optioned to Triple-A Norfolk, since the Orioles signed free-agent first baseman Derrek Lee over the winter. And because Snyder still has some work to do in the minors after hitting .257/.324/.407 with nine homers and 43 RBIs in 339 at-bats at Norfolk last season.

The Orioles included Snyder, a 2005 first-round pick out of a Centreville, Va., high school, among their September callups, and he collected six hits in 20 at-bats. But they need him to force the issue this summer and convince them that he's the long-term answer at first.

"I've worked really hard to get my power up," Snyder told MASNsports.com. "I've tried to overanalyze it in the past and now I have to just go out and play."

He needs to play as he did in 2009 with Double-A Bowie, when he batted .343/.421/.597 in 201 at-bats before being promoted to Norfolk. The International League has proven to be a lot more challenging.

Snyder, 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds, also has to stay ahead of other first basemen in the system, including Bowie's Joe Mahoney, last year's minor league player of the year for the Orioles.

For now, Snyder will slot behind Lee, who signed a one-year deal.

"Originally, as any player probably would be, I was a little kind of distraught as I knew that's kind of a big adversity to overcome if I ever want to be the starting first baseman in Baltimore," Snyder said. "Actually, one of my buddies called and said, 'I'm happy for you that we signed Lee.' I asked him why and he said, 'Think of it this way: If you could pick anyone to learn from, he'd be one of the best guys to learn from.'

"I'm excited to play next to him in spring training and pick his brain. He'll be great for the Orioles. I'm not competing against him, I'm competing against myself."

Bird Seed

• The Orioles signed 17 players to minor league contracts with spring training invites. The list includes righthanders Wynn Pelzer and David Riske, lefthander Mark Hendrickson, catcher Michel Hernandez, outfielder Randy Winn, and infielders Nick Green and Brendan Harris.

• Ramon Sambo will return for another season managing the Orioles' Rookie-level Gulf Coast League team. The Orioles still haven't named a manager for short-season Aberdeen.