Notes: Snell in midseason form

Notes: Snell in midseason form

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Ian Snell was on the mark against the cross-state rival Phillies on Monday, but to Jim Tracy, it came as no surprise.

"He's been really good all spring," the Pirates manager said. "His arm speed with all his pitches is devastating to hitters ... and when you're throwing with the type of command he is right now, it's awfully tough to deal with."

Philadelphia found Snell especially vexing Monday, mustering just one extra-base hit out of the four it had against the young righty as he fanned five in five innings while throwing his fourth scoreless outing in five tries.

"I'm trying to be a little bit smarter than I have been," said Snell, a 14-game winner as a rookie in 2006. "I'm trying to mix my pitches as much as I can and keep hitters off-balance, not throw as many fastballs, change up my speed, play with their minds a little bit.

"I've learned a lot from last year. It's amazing what a year pitching in the big leagues can do for you."

It's showing on the field: Snell is 2-0 in Grapefruit League games with a 1.69 ERA. He's doing so well, in fact, that Tracy said he can only remember Snell throwing one bad pitch in his 16 innings combined -- a hanging fastball to Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard back on March 6, that the defending National League home run champion knocked in the gap for two runs.

Snell sought his revenge on Monday and got it, holding Howard to a single in three at-bats.

"He's been on a mission since day one of Spring Training," Tracy said. "He's grown in all facets of the game and life, in my opinion."

They've got your back: When Snell did slip, the defense behind him was solid. Right fielder Xavier Nady and left fielder Nate McLouth each gunned down runners who tried to stretch singles into doubles. Third baseman Neil Walker had a snazzy diving backhand stop, and shortstop Jack Wilson turned a few heads with his fleet feet up the middle.

"I think everybody that is in Spring Training looks awesome in the field," Snell said. "You've got guys busting their tails, you can't ask for much more than that. I know they're making it very difficult for the coaching staff and the owners to make a decision who's going to make the team, because these guys come out and play hard every single day."

Roster trimmed: The Pirates cut five players from Major League camp Monday morning, including right-hander Jesse Chavez, infielders Mike Edwards and Nick Green and outfielder Chris Aguila, all of whom were reassigned to Minor League camp. Right-hander Brian Rogers was optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis.

Green, who came to Pittsburgh in January as a free agent, has been sidelined with a sprained right big toe since March 1 and will likely miss the rest of the week as well.

"It's unfortunate," general manager Dave Littlefield said. "Nick was a guy we've had our eyes on, and were hoping he'd be in competition for one of those utility spots. It's just bad timing with getting hurt. He'll go over to Minor League camp and get himself healthy, and start getting those at-bats once he is.

"We'll certainly keep our eyes on him."

Sanchez update: Littlefield said NL batting champion Freddy Sanchez was "making a lot of progress" with his twisted right knee, and added Sanchez's return date will be based on how the second baseman feels.

"He'll do more based on him feeling better and stronger, which he is every day," Littlefield said. "He felt a lot better [Sunday] swinging the bat, and he'll be out here soon."

Let's talk: Players Association head Donald Fehr will be in Pirates camp Tuesday during his annual tour to sit down and discuss various questions and issues with Bucs players. The meeting will take place at 9 a.m. ET.

Up next: Pittsburgh returns home Tuesday to host the American League champion Tigers at 1:05 p.m. ET. Left-hander Paul Maholm is set to make his third preseason start for the Pirates, and he'll face off against Detroit righty Justin Verlander.

Dawn Klemish is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.