Oakland A's Prospect Q&A: James Heuser

Last season, James Heuser was one of the work-horses out of the California League champion Stockton Ports' bullpen. The side-arm southpaw racked up nine wins and a save and struck-out 103 in 95.1 innings. Jeremy Knight recently spoke to Heuser, who is now with Midland, about the jump to Double-A, the drop in his arm angle and more...

Jeremy Knight: What's the biggest difference from pitching in Stockton, compared to Midland?

James Heuser: A couple of the biggest differences I would have to say is that the hitters here are a little bit more patient, and don't swing at pitches out of the zone as much. I would also have to say the strike zone shrinks a little bit more.

JK: How has the transition to side-arm release been?

JH: The transition to side arm, if you had asked me at the end of last year, I would have said awesome, but this year I have struggled to find the release point and the control I had at one point. When you pitch one way for 16 years and then start doing something new, there tends to be ups and downs along the way. So, hopefully it all gets figured out.

JK: Midland is considered to be the most popular A's Minor League team to follow, is it exciting watching the offensive production each night?

JH: It has definitely been awesome watching our team pound runs day to day, and as a result our pitching has benefited due to the comfort of 3+ run leads. We lost a lot of key players, but we have also added a lot of great players so it continues to be exciting watching these guys every night grow, and get better.

JK: How cool is it being just two steps below the Major Leagues?

JH: I have waited to be in AA since I signed back in '03. It's where every ballplayer wants to be because the bigs are just a call away once you get here. It's great for a lot of the guys here that are doing well because you realize that your dreams are that much closer to becoming a reality. So to answer your question, very cool.

JK: How good is Adrian Cardenas, who is climbing up the MILB prospect rankings?

JH: AC (Adrian Cardenas) is one of the best guys to be on a team with. Not only are his defensive skills extremely impressive, and the fact that he is a doubles machine, but the kid is a great guy to be around. He is always positive, and just an all around great guy. Playing with him, you can just tell that he'll be an asset to any big league team in the future.

JK: You seem to be a fan favorite everywhere you go. Is it important to give back to those who cheer you on every night?

JH: The fans are a key part to any club, and especially the kids. A great friend of mine once said, "It's all about the kids." For me, I remember going to games when I was younger and how much I looked up to ball players, and how cool it felt when they actually acknowledged me. I like to talk to the kids, joke with them and just have a good time. I just like to let them know that I appreciate them coming out and supporting our team. And you know me, I'm a kid at heart, so I fit right in.

JK: What are your favorite cities you have ever played in?

JH: Oh man, the favorite city I've ever played in is tough. I've been to numerous places, but I would have to say the top five would have to be, and not in any particular order, Vancouver, Boise (Idaho, NWL), Frisco (Texas, TL), Lansing (Michigan, MWL) and Kane County. There's a couple more up there, but that's a tough question.

JK: I can't interview you without asking you about [Vancouver manager] Rick Magnante. What can you say about him?

JH: Rick, a.k.a. the skipper - I can say a lot about the skipper, and everything that I can say is great. He is an amazing guy, and an amazing coach. He taught me a lot about baseball, and it was an honor to play for him. He and our current coach [Darren] Bush are a lot alike. He knows how to get to his players, and never yells. He's always positive and is always there to guide you in the right direction.

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