Thursday's Chat Transcript with Lee Scheide

Sportswriter Lee Scheide of the San Antonio Express-News joined us in the InsidethePark.com chat room Thursday night to talk San Antonio Missions baseball. While the first half of the chat got cut off (our apologies), the second half was recorded and is now available to all of you who didn't have a chance to join us. Come see who Scheide said had a flame-thrower attached to his left arm.

ITP: Which players from the Missions' staff should the Mariners be sure to hang on to?
Scheide: You don't want to see Johnson, Nageotte or Blackley in another uniform.

ITP: What is your impression of LHP Bobby Madritsch?
Scheide: Madritsch has a flame-thrower attached to his left arm. He uses it to overpower batters when he needs to.

ITP: How can the Mariners best use all the talent then? Only so many spots…
Scheide: Exactly… I compare this system to the Dodgers of the 70s and early 80s… when the infield plays together for 9 years, players have to go somewhere else and it ends up hurting the team. They are going to have to cough up some pitching sometime soon, because unless they can keep Snelling healthy in the DH role, they are going to have to find one.

ITP: What kind of potential do you see in Rett Johnson and given the organizational depth, could he get thrown into the pen instead of the rotation?
Scheide: I think he's a No. 3 or 4 in the starting rotation in two years… just a battler who learned how to pitch here in San Antonio. I think he was 13-3 in a full season. You'll like him a lot.

ITP: How would you rank the following as far as potential as a starter: Meche, Pineiro, Nageotte, Blackley, Rett Johnson and Soriano?
Scheide: Right now, I'd go – Pineiro, Nageotte, Meche, Soriano, Johnson, Blackley.

ITP: Then would Blackley be the most tradable of those six?
Scheide: Blackley, maybe, but I think you'll want a crafty lefthander for the rotation in a couple of years. Meche is the must vulnerable of those you mentioned. The Mariners are very happy with the way that Travis is progressing. He'll look good in a Rainiers uni this year. I think Travis can be a No. 4 or 5 starter in the majors.

ITP: And what you have coming to AA: Ryan Ketchner, Troy Cate, Glenn Bott, Emiliano Fruto
Scheide: Exactly, but the way the AL West has changed this winter, you need them all. You have to remember that you also have Matt Thornton coming back from elbow surgery. Jeff Heaverlo with a full season after surgery. The arms in this organization are amazing.

ITP: Do you think Soriano, based on his development cycle, is ready to be a starting pitcher, or is he more suited at this point for a year or more in the pen?
Scheide: Well, after watching him blow away 14 in the Texas League Championship Series Game 7 two seasons ago, I'd say he's ready for anything. He just needs to stop relying on the heater. I think Soriano is destined to be a closer, eventually, but you have Aaron Taylor, too, so Soriano could stay in the No. 2 spot in the rotation.

ITP: Some have said Taylor is overrated. What are your feelings?
Scheide: Hard to say a guy that brings it 98 is overrated. He earned all three saves in the TL Division Series in 2002, then got promoted to the bigs the day after the game.

ITP: Who is the San Antonio pitching coach that works with these talented guys?
Scheide: I haven't met him yet. He's coming up from A-ball. I'll be talking to Dave Brundage on Tuesday, so I'll learn more about him then. The pitching coach the last two seasons here was Rafael Chaves, and he'll be in Tacoma this season.

ITP: What are your thoughts on former Mariner phenom Ryan Anderson?
Scheide: I think he just needs to throw one pitch pain free. I would think, it's been a long time for him, so it's inside his head.

ITP: Who are your favorite players on the Missions since you've been covering them?
Scheide: Actually, most are pretty good guys… Heaverlo and J.J. Putz the first year, Greg Dobbs, Jamal Strong, Adrian Myers. Last year, Justin Leone, A.J. Zapp, the pitchers. Quality kids with lots of talent.

ITP: Where do you see Zapp topping out?
Scheide: Zapp has a Will Clark/Jim Edmonds swing, which takes perfect timing. When he connects, it's like watching a super ball. The ball disappears fast. He could play in the bigs. He's got decent skills at first, but his speed is not an asset.

ITP: When is the best time to come to San Antonio to see the Missions (weather, etc.), and how tough to get tickets for this two-time champion team?
Scheide: Tickets are available every night. They have 6,000-plus seats, and berm seating in left/left-center. Come in May or June; otherwise bring your UV 100.

ITP: What is your philosophy with covering minor-league baseball? Where do you place creating community interest in the team and what do you do to help create that?
Scheide: I love minor-league baseball, because the fans are so much a part of everything that goes on with the game… between-inning promotions, hanging over the dugouts everything.

ITP: What are the difficulties in covering minor-league baseball?
Scheide: For me, there really aren't any. I have a good relationship with the manager and I respect the guys when they have to do their work. People forget that these kids are living their dreams, so they are going to be pretty happy.

ITP: Where do you think you've improved from when you've first started and what would you tell someone who wants to get into covering a minor-league team that would help them do their job better?
Scheide: Where have I improved? Probably in being able to understand the game much better, knowing which players are suited for certain situations late in the game, etc. I think that anyone who wants to cover it needs to be honest with the team. If the guys don't trust you in the locker room, you aren't going to get much beyond basic game quotes.

ITP: How much do you deviate from just game coverage (recaps and previews) when covering a minor-league team?
Scheide: You need to cover what happened and let that dictate the story. Also the length you have the story dictates what you can and can't get in the paper, so you adjust that way as well.

ITP: How many non-game stories are appropriate for minor-league coverage?
Scheide: We run features at the beginning of every home stand and then at the midway points. During the playoffs, we run features every day. If the team has any length on its road trips, the features are the perfect way to re-introduce them when they are back in town.

ITP: What jumps out at you when you evaluate a prospect?
Scheide: The tools – Speed, hitting, hitting for power, arm and glove.

ITP: What can you tell us about Wolff Stadium, home of the Missions?
Scheide: It is the Shea Stadium of the minor leagues. Very windy with a local AFB nearby that makes for a lot of air traffic.

ITP: Thanks for coming Lee, it was great.
Scheide: Thanks for the invitation and hope to be able to chat again soon.

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