SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rangers reliever Ben Snyder did his left-handed imitation of Colby Lewis, and the results were impressive on a long Thursday afternoon at Surprise Stadium.
Snyder's two scoreless innings were the pitching highlight for the Rangers in an 11-7 loss to the Athletics. Snyder has not been scored upon in his three Cactus League outings as he fights an uphill battle to gain attention in the Rangers' crowded relief competition.
"Ben made a little adjustment on the side the other day after watching Colby Lewis," pitching coach Mike Maddux said. "He shortened up his delivery, got over the top more and had a better downhill angle on his fastball. It made his stuff crisper."
Snyder entered the game with a runner on third and nobody out in the sixth and kept the run from scoring. Seth Smith grounded out, Yoenis Cespedes popped out and Jonny Gomes flied out. He gave up a one-out single to Kila Ka'aihue in the seventh, but got Daric Barton to hit into an inning-ending double play.
The single by Ka'aihue was the first baserunner Snyder has allowed in the Cactus League, although he did allow four unearned runs in a "B" game against the Royals.
Snyder was acquired from the Giants in a Rule 5 Draft trade two years ago as the second part of a deal that sent Kevin Millwood to the Rangers. He has never pitched above Double-A, but he was 11-5 with a 3.87 ERA in 14 starts and 26 relief appearances at Frisco last year. Left-handed hitters batted .273 off him. He also held opponents to a .220 batting average with runners in scoring position, including .173 with two outs.
He's a long-shot candidate to win a job in the bullpen, but none of the others are breaking away in the race. Mitch Stetter allowed four unearned runs in the ninth inning on Thursday. An error on a two-out grounder by first baseman Brad Hawpe cost the Rangers a victory, but Stetter also walked two hitters.
Joe Beimel, who has the most experience of any left-handed reliever in camp, is down with a virus. Neal Cotts has a 6.23 ERA after four outings, and Michael Kirkman has a 10.50 ERA. Rookie Robert Ross is also nudging his way into the picture.
"I'm just trying to take care of my situation," Snyder said. "I can't control what they're doing. Those other guys are much more qualified to get innings. Joe Beimel has 11 years in the big leagues. I'm trying to learn as much as I can. I know being a non-roster guy I'm going to have to throw very well."
He also needs to get right-handed hitters out. The Rangers believe Kirkman has the ability to do both, that's why he could be the favorite in this competition. Snyder has to do the same.
Snyder has an excellent curveball against lefties and a changeup that he can use against left-handers. He's always working on a slider against left-handers and getting more downhill action on his fastball could help.
"Downhill works against anybody," Maddux said.
"I'm trying to get better pitching inside against left-handers," Snyder said. "Pitch location is a big part for a guy not blowing away radar guns."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.