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CHAT TRANSCRIPT: Mario Impemba talks Tigers

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Events_Moderator: Okay everyone! Let's get started! Let's welcome Mario Impemba to the chat! Hi Mario, welcome to Lycos Live Events! What's up?

mario_impemba: Hi, not a whole lot, I appreciate you having me!

Events_Moderator: What are your thoughts on your former team the Angels? Do you think the acquisitions of the veteran pitchers Appier and Sele will help them contend in the A.L. West?

mario_impemba: I think they definitely will contend. I think that in looking back the last couple of years, the major problem has been consistent pitching. And I think the addition of two veterans like Sele and Appier will definitely help out the good, young pitching that they have on that staff. Offensively, Brad Fullmer gives them a steady DH, and I think that they definitely have a great chance of contending in the West.

textrey: How big of a disaster did the Juan Gonzalez trade end up being for the Tigers?

mario_impemba: Well, that's a good question. I think that the hope was that Juan would play a year in Detroit and decide that he wanted to stay here, and in my opinion, it was a good gamble to take. Unfortunately it didn't work out, but the thing that impresses me about this organization is that they seem to have moved on and that the attitude is outstanding this year.

ebro_hep_cat: Hey how do you think Dmitri Young will do with the Tigers??

mario_impemba: I think Dmitri is a great pickup for this club. He's a guy that has hit .300 for four straight years and I think will play a solid defensive first base.

mario_impemba: When you put him in the middle of a lineup that includes Higginson, Young and Palmer, that's a pretty good 3-4-5. And he has an outstanding attitude, which is another plus.

shaqsftcoach: Who will be Detroit's #2 hitter?

mario_impemba: Well, looking at things right now its still very early in camp, but I would imagine that the player best suited for that spot right now is Damion Easley. He has the ability to move up runners, put the ball in play, and I think he's an ideal number 2 hitter.

ebro_hep_cat: Who's your favorite Tiger for post-game interviews?

mario_impemba: Well, I guess we'll have to find out, this being my first year with the club, I haven't had too many opportunities to interview too many of the Tigers. But from what people tell me, Steve Sparks is outstanding. Jose Lima is also very good and always willing to talk. But ask me that question in September, and I'll be better able to answer it.

scooma: What do you think of Robert Fick as a hitter?

mario_impemba: Well, I think Robert Fick will turn into a very good major league hitter. I think he has all the tools, good power, ability to drive in runs, and is a guy that will give you a solid. .280, .280 and maybe even .300.

shaqsftcoach: What kind of a year do you predict for catcher Mike Rivera?

mario_impemba: Well, he had a great year last year in the minor leagues, 33 home runs is mighty impressive, regardless of whatever league you play in. He'll have a chance this spring to make the club, but I think more than likely he'll start at AAA. He has nothing more to prove at AA. And to this point, he has shown that he could some day be a very solid major league hitter.

ebro_hep_cat: Are the Tigers trying to get speedy, gap-hitting outfielders so they can do well in Comerica Park?

mario_impemba: Well, I don't know if that's the plan, I think that the Seattle Mariners have had a blueprint that the Tigers are following, and that is to get speedy outfielders in a ballpark with big gaps. I think as you look at the Tigers 2002 team, Jose Macias will play in center field. He has good speed and gets a great jump. Bobby Higginson has been very solid in left field. The question is, can Robert Fick play well enough in right.

bradhasbrouck: Mario, since the September 11th tragedy, do you think TV networks should carry the National Anthem instead of commercials and have ballparks replace "Take Me Out To The Ball Game" with "God Bless America" for upcoming season?

mario_impemba: I don't know if "God Bless America" is on tap for the upcoming season, but I think it would be great if all radio and TV broadcasts could include the National Anthem this year. When we resumed play last year, I thought it was very appropriate that most TV and radio broadcasts around the league did carry both the Anthem and "God Bless America," and I hope its possible that it will happen again this year.

shaqsftcoach: Does Brandon Inge have what it takes to be a good hitter on the major league level?

mario_impemba: Well, he certainly has what it takes defensively. The question for Brandon is to prove consistently that he can hit major league pitching. His average in the minor league has been decent, but it's a different story at the big league level. If he does, he'll be a dynamite catcher with his defensive skills.

ebro_hep_cat: When you're traveling on the road what are your favorite cities to be at?

mario_impemba: Great question, I love answering this question! Probably my favorite road city is Boston, so much history in that town, and in my opinion one of the great, old ballparks still left. I also love to go to San Franscisco, and Seattle as well. Both great cities! And for those that have been there, they know that there's no other town like New York City, but I can only take NY in small doses.

shaqsftcoach: Can Mitch Meluskey's shoulder stand up to the rigors of catching and throwing?

mario_impemba: Well, I think the Tigers are hopeful that it will. Catching, obviously, is a very demanding spot. The one thing that Mitch brings is a strong bat to the lineup. I think defensively, if his shoulder holds up, and the Tigers are hopeful it will, he'll see a lot of action this year behind the plate.

textrey: The Tigers have a new stadium. They play in a big city. So why are they such a small market team?

mario_impemba: (laughs) That's a very good question! Well, I don't know that they are considered a small market team in terms of size of city and ballpark and attendance. I would consider the Tigers a mid to a large market team. Certainly not the size of New York or Los Angeles, but certainly not a small market team, either. I don't know that a lot of folks actually consider Detroit a small market team.

shaqsftcoach: What kind of a season do you envision for Seth Greisinger? Will he ever be the pitcher he was before the Tommy John surgery that sidelined him for two years?

mario_impemba: Well, if spring training is any indication, the future is very bright for Seth. He'll start on Sunday against Cleveland, and Phil Garner has said he will try to get Seth as many innings as possible this spring. Brandon Inge, who has caught him this spring, has raved about his stuff. Everyone is very optimistic that Seth will be an outstanding big league pitcher.

shaqsftcoach: I keep hearing a lot about rookie left-hander Andy Van Hekken's control ... What's your take on his ability?

mario_impemba: Well, I haven't seen Andy play live. But his control has always been one of his strong suits. I'm sorry, hasn't been one of his strong suits! I'm sorry — I'm twisted, LOL! HAS been one of his strong suits — my final answer is his control is outstanding!!!! It has been in the minor leagues, and that's one of the first things that pitching coaches look at.

kcman43: How do you feel knowing you'll only have one season to work in the booth next door to Ernie Harwell, who's retiring after this year?

mario_impemba: Well, I feel sad, but I also feel very fortunate. Like many in this business, I've looked up to Ernie my entire life. And being able to work around Ernie as an opposing broadcaster, its very gratifying to have at least one season to work with him and learn as much as I can from him. In my estimation, Ernie Harwell is what baseball is all about, so enjoy this year.

shaqsftcoach: Joe Valentine has never pitched above Class A, but the Tigers are hopeful he is ready to make the big leap to the big leagues. Is that realistic?

mario_impemba: I don't know that its realistic for this year. As a rule 5 draftee, you have to make a major splash in spring camp. I think that he can come in and perhaps open some eyes, but I don't think it's very realistic that he will stick with the Tigers.

Events_Moderator: How many more years does Phil Garner have to prove himself before the Tigers look to make a move?

mario_impemba: Well, if you listen to the media and some fans, this year! But I think Phil is a quality manager and a quality baseball man, and I think this will be an important season for him. It will be an important season for a lot of people. But I think there has been major attitude adjustment with the club in the offseason, and that's a big first step.

Events_Moderator: Was losing Roger Cedeno a classic case of addition by subtraction?

mario_impemba: I think so! I think if you have players in the clubhouse that don't want to be here, then they are probably not going to help you too much. Instead the Tigers gave Jose Macias a two-year contract and the center field job. I think that's a great move because Macias wants to play for the Tigers. And he has been a part of what has been a great attitude in camp.

Events_Moderator: I hate to say it, but we have to wrap this up in a few minutes. Our time with Mario is almost up! We'll take a few more questions & comments.

kcman43: I know won-loss records in spring training are virtually meaningless ... do the Tigers need to experience some success before starting the regular season, if nothing else to establish a winning attitude?

mario_impemba: I've never really been one that has put too much stock in spring records. Because early on, managers and coaches concentrate on working everybody into the lineup, and finding everybody some playing time. I think what's more indicative of the ballclub is perhaps the last two weeks of camp, when more of the regulars are playing. And it's more important to gain some momentum the last two weeks as opposed to the overall record.

Events_Moderator: What are your thoughts on Cecil Fielder's son Prince? Have you seen him play yet? How does his game compare to his dad's?

mario_impemba: I haven't seen Prince play in person. But I'm told that he is listed as one of the top high school prospects in the country. He's a big kid, just like his dad, but has very good athletic skills, and many feel he will play professionally and do very well.

Events_Moderator: The Encarnacion-for-Young trade seemed like a no-brainer for the Tigers. How could the Reds have made such a lopsided deal?

mario_impemba: Well, sometimes certain players just don't fit with certain organizations. I don't know why the Reds felt that they wanted to move Dmitri, but perhaps in their mind they were getting a player that has been considered a five-tool guy. I think you're right, the Tigers got the much better end of that deal, and I'm glad he's with us.

noahs_ark2: When is the first tiger game on Fox Sports Detroit?

mario_impemba: The first Tiger's game on Fox Sports Detroit is March the 5th. agains the New York Yankees. We'll do a total of four this spring. The 5th, the 18th, the 28th and 30th, I hope you'll tune in!

Events_Moderator: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us this evening, Mario. It's been fun! We'll have to do this again sometime!

mario_impemba: Its been my pleasure everyone. Thanks for joining us and I look forward to seeing you all at Comerica Park this year!

Events_Moderator: Great questions everyone. Y'all are the best!! I hope everyone had fun!! We sure did!!

Tagged: Angels, Indians, Tigers, Mariners, Blue Jays, Reds, Brandon Inge

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