Q&A with Michael Jacobs

Norfolk Tides' catcher Michael Jacobs, who missed most of the 2004 season, sits down with NYfansonly.com to give us some insights to his injury, how he's feeling these days, his strengths and weaknesses, and to give us some thoughts on the likes of Justin Huber, Joe Hietpas, Bob Keppel, Matt Peterson, and others.

NYF: Can you tell us exactly what your injury was this past season and how it effected your play?

Michael Jacobs: I had a torn labrum in my right shoulder that caused a cyst that was pinching on the nerve in my shoulder. It started right when I was called down from the Big League camp to the minor league camp at Spring Traing last year. I wasn't too worried about it at first. They drained the cyst to help relieve the pain but it only relieved the pain for about a week. What started happening was I was getting atrophy in my back muscles. Then I was really starting to get scared, very frustrated, and disappointed. There was talk I could have played through the torn labrum. I mean, it wasn't affecting my throwing all that much but the whole combination was causing me a lot of pain in my swing. It was kind of tough to generate any sort of power when you had a hole in the muscles in your back. The cyst was causing my my muscles to shut down and wouldn't allow any rotation of the shoulder outward. They told me I was going to need surgery eventually so I could have waited and had the surgery later, but that would have meant not being ready for Opening Day this coming season. I obviously opted for the surgery right away.

NYF: So how do you feel now?

Jacobs: I feel real good actually. I was down in Florida and just got back home (in California) about a month ago. I began throwing some at the Instructs and my biggest concern was getting my hitting back. Once I got back on to the field, it was like I never left. I am heading back down to Florida the first week of January and will have a least a month of throwing programs. I think it is coming along really well and I am excited about it....(laughing) knock on wood! I should be 100% by the start of Spring Training. I am still right where I need to be and hopefully next season will be a good year for me.

NYF: Have the Mets given any indication where you'll be playing next year?

Jacobs: No, they haven't told me specifically where I'll be but I would assume I'll be at AAA. I can't see why not. I would imagine I'll be at the Big League camp again this year (Jacobs has been there the last three years), but they haven't told us yet.

NYF: How did you find out about your good friend Justin Huber being traded and what was your reaction?

Jacobs: I think my mom called me about it. She's always reading about that kind of stuff. In fact, I think she found out about it on your web site (laughing). It was definitely a shock when I found out. I was very surprised. I think he's a very good player and I am not sure what their thinking was, but it doesn't hurt my case any. I began thinking maybe they (the Mets) felt they could have made that deal because they have me and that maybe I had established myself more now. But it was definitely a shock.

NYF: Well now with Justin out of the picture at the catcher's position, do you think you'll still be alternating between catching and playing first base next season?

Jacobs: That's an interesting question. I've been going over that in my mind the last three months. Ever since I started playing first base at St. Lucie a couple of years ago, I've been playing pretty well at first base. But I definitely think I am going to be behind the plate 80%, or 90% of the time. You know, possibly spell Brazell at first when he needs a day off or something but I think I'll be at catcher most of the time. I don't think I'll ever make the straight transition over to first.

NYF: What do you think is the weakest part of your game?

Jacobs: Probably my all-around defense. I mean, I receive the ball well. I block the balls well. And I can call I good game. I'd say, more specifically, the weakest part of my game is throwing runners out. I'm a big guy and I have a good arm, but I have a slower release than I would like. That's something I am hoping to improve next year.

NYF: Which pitcher, or pitchers, were you most impressed with last year at Norfolk?

Jacobs: I'd have to say Heath Bell and Jose Parra. With Bell, he just throws hard every time. He has a weird delivery and he works it to his advantage. Parra was a I guy I really liked. He was just fearless on the mound. He just takes the ball and throws at the plate, like he's going to shove it up your ***! He just cuts loose and goes right after batters.

NYF: What do you think of Bob Keppel? In your opinion, does he have what it takes to get to the Majors?

Jacobs: Oh yeah, definitely. I mean, he's so young. He's like 22 or something and has already reached AAA. I think he's going to do just fine. He had a shoulder problem or something was going on with him last year. He throws hard for a skinny guy. (laughing) I am always giving him a hard time about not having enough meat on his bones. He has a good fastball with good sink to it. He throws in the low 90's, 91 or 92 MPH. He has a good sinker, a good slider, and a changeup. His changeup is definitely his weakest pitch. His fastball is his "go to" pitch and he uses it as his setup pitch. His slider is real good and it has good break to it, but it's a little inconsistent at times. I definitely think he's going to get there (the Majors). He just gets so hyped up on the mound that I literally have to go there and calm him down. I really like catching him and I like the guy a lot, especially as a pitcher. He's always been a gamer and he's going to do just fine.

NYF: What are your impressions of Joe Hietpas?

Jacobs: Joe is one of the best guys you're ever going to meet. He's a really good catcher defensively and I heard he had a pretty good Arizona Fall League. He's been hitting the ball a lot better. It's been tough for him because he's never really had the consistent at-bats needed. He should be the main man somewhere next year and he deserves it. He's never really been in that role and I think he's going to do much better with more consistent at-bats.

NYF: You were down at the Instructs this past fall. What one player stood out in your mind and impressed you the most?

Jacobs: I'd have to say Jesus Flores. He did real well and he looks solid all around. He's going to be a good one.

NYF: Okay, over your entire Mets' minor league career, give us one pitcher that has impressed you the most.

Jacobs: Definitely Matthew Peterson. He and Keppel have been my two favorite pitchers to catch. Matt is just so young and he's been dominating ever since pitching Opening Day in Brooklyn a few years ago. I mean, I know I was nervous that day and here was a teenager starting in front of a crowd on Opening Day the likes we've never seen before. He was great for us that day and he was great for us ever since that time. He just kept it going the last few years and any team is definitely lucky to have him.

NYF: Same question, but now give us one positional player that has impressed you the most over your Mets' minor league career.

Jacobs: You'd have to say David Wright. He is just so conistent. I mean, what did he do this past year? Hit over .300 with 50 something doubles and I don't know, over 100 RBI. It was unbelievable the type of year he put together. You go to bed at night dreaming of numbers like that.

NYF: You have come up through the system with less fanfare than some of the other guys like David Wright, Justin Huber, and those type of players. How does that make you feel not getting the publicity you deserve?

Jacobs: Actually, I have enjoyed flying under the radar. I kind of liked not getting the attention the other guys may have gotten. I knew I was playing well and turning heads. My 2003 season was so good that I am now starting to get the attention. I do have one bone to pick with you guys. (laughing) How could you guys not have chosen me as the 2003 Mets Minor League Hitter of the Year? Seriously though, just like my mom always says, hard work pays off.

NYF: Do you have an specific goals for next season? I mean, are you going into next season saying you want to hit X number of home runs or the like?

Jacobs: I go into each game looking for one hit and one walk. You're going to be able to do something if you have have that mindset. I'd like to hit over .300, have 15+ home runs, and 80+ RBI to answer your question.

NYF: What would you say is the weakest part of your game, offensively?

Jacobs: I am way too aggressive at times and it gets me into some bad situations. If a pitcher throws me a first pitch fastball for a strike, I'm going to go after it and swing away. I don't have a bad eye at the plate, but I am up there looking for a hit, not to take a walk.

NYF: (laughing) I thought you said though that one of your goals is to draw a walk and get a hit each game?

Jacobs: (laughing) Yeah, true, but that one hit has to be in the bushes.

NYF: What would you say is the strongest part of your offensive game?

Jacobs: My power to all fields. I put the good part of the bat on the ball and have real good power going the other way. That's my biggest selling point.

NYF: You made it to AAA this past season and now Justin Huber is out of the organization. With all the trade talks surrounding Mike Piazza and Jason Phillips, has it hit you yet that you are almost there?

Jacobs: Yeah, I have definitely thought about that. When Vance went down for two weeks last year, I had gotten hurt two weeks before that and I was disapointed that I had missed my shot at that time. If something like that does happen again, I'll be ready to step up. But that's something that has to play out for me. I don't like to count my chickens before they hatch. But if the opportunity comes up, I definitely think I could do fine and I'll be ready to go.

NYfansonly.com would like to thank Michael Jacobs for taking the time to answer our questions and we wish him well in his rehab. Good luck next season Jake!

Amazin Clubhouse Top Stories