|04-24-2003, 02:16 AM|
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Dutton: Snyder says assistant trainer helped him through tough rehab times
Snyder says assistant trainer helped him through tough rehab times
By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
Posted on Thu, Apr. 24, 2003
Kyle Snyder is quick to say that without Frank Kyte, he might not be wearing a Royals uniform or preparing for his major-league debut at some point this weekend in Toronto.
Snyder, a right-handed pitcher, spent nearly all of 2000 and 2001 in rehabilitation because of two major elbow surgeries. Kyte was there day after dreary day.
"He's the guy who got me through this," said Snyder, the seventh overall pick in the 1999 amateur draft. "He's a very special person. I spent virtually every day with him for two straight years.
"Even when I wasn't participating or actively playing baseball, it was nice to be around someone who is so positive. He helped me through every day."
At the time, Kyte was the club's rehabilitation coordinator in Baseball City, Fla. He now serves as the Royals' assistant trainer, which guarantees him a dugout seat for Snyder's debut.
"He had some low moments," Kyte recalled, "but it wasn't anything you knew he couldn't deal with. I was basically just a sounding board for him to get things off of his chest.
"The good thing is he stayed with it. He didn't let anything stand between him and the goals he wanted to achieve. That's half the battle in rehab."
Snyder, 25, pitched only two games in 2000 before elbow soreness forced him to the sideline and eventually led to the surgical transposition of the ulnar nerve in his elbow.
After rehabbing most of the summer, Snyder went to Class A Wilmington, Del., for an Aug. 27 start. He tore the ulnar collateral ligament in the first inning. It was a devastating setback.
"When it first happened," Kyte said, "he couldn't even talk to me on the phone. I talked to his dad, who was there for the game. Kyle was just too emotional.
"To hear from the doctor after the surgery that his collateral ligament looked great -- I think Dr. (James) Andrews used the word `pristine' -- then for that to happen... that was the hardest thing to take."
The torn ligament required Tommy John surgery, a procedure in which a ligament is transplanted from the wrist to the elbow. It also meant another year or more of rehab work.
"I knew I was coming back," Snyder said. "But it was comforting to know I was going back to be with someone I felt extremely comfortable with.
"He was a father figure. He helped me no matter what was going on -- emotionally and physically. He was very supportive."
Slowly, Snyder regained the form that once prompted the Royals to shell out a signing bonus of $2.1 million. He made 21 starts last season at Wilmington and Class AA Wichita, although his strict pitch counts limited him to a mere 74 innings.
Snyder then went to the Arizona Fall League, where his velocity continued to improve. By this spring, he was ready to compete for a job in the rotation.
"He came very close to making this ballclub in spring training," manager Tony Pena said. "We held onto Kyle right to the end of camp. He threw the ball well."
Eventually, Snyder lost out to Chris George in the battle for the final starting job. But his 3-0 record and 2.74 ERA in four starts at Class AAA Omaha, Neb., made Snyder an obvious choice when an injury to Jeremy Affeldt created an opening in the rotation.
"I went down and focused on the things they told me I needed to focus on," Snyder said. "I pounded the ball down in strike zone. I was pitch-efficient. In my first start, I threw 62 pitches in six innings. My third start was seven innings and 76 pitches."
That seven-inning effort April 15 against Iowa was Snyder's longest outing since his junior season at North Carolina.
"It was great to go back out there for the seventh inning for the first time since '99," he said. "And to be still feeling good, feeling strong. That's what I was most pleased with in Omaha, how good I felt late in the game."
Before Wednesday's rainout, Snyder was scheduled to start Friday's series opener in Toronto. Tentatively, he is now slated to pitch Saturday, although another rainout this afternoon could force a further delay.
"I welcome the challenge," he said. "I believe in myself. I'm ready to get out there.
"Whatever they give me the ball -- if it happens to be one start, two starts or whatever -- I'm going to do all that I can to help this ballclub to continue to be the best in the AL Central."
And whenever it is that Snyder makes his major-league debut, Frank Kyte is also likely to consider it a personal victory.
"Just getting to see him pitch this spring was fun," Kyte said. "It was great to see what he actually looks like when he's healthy. That's what the job is all about.
"When you handle the rehabs, you want to bring them in when they're broken and get them back to the same level or higher. When they achieve it, that's better than anything anybody can do for you pay-wise."