12/20/07 7:00 PM ET
Schneider changes Mets behind plate
New backstop known for defense, ability to handle pitchers
By Marty Noble / MLB.com
The physical skills and baseball acumen of the Mets' new catcher will be on display come mid-February in Port St. Lucie and in April in Queens. His conscience was evident Thursday afternoon when he made his first public appearance as a Met at the SNY studios in Manhattan. One week after the release of the Mitchell Report, Schneider released his thoughts on the topic.
"They're grown men. They have to deal with the consequences," Schneider said of those mentioned in the report, including his Mets predecessor, Paul Lo Duca. "I think it was good that it came out, and I think it will help the numbers [of users] go down. Senator Mitchell even said that the numbers are going down. So I think it's getting better."
Schneider was acquired from the Nationals on Nov. 30 with outfielder Ryan Church in a trade that moved Lastings Milledge from the uncertainty of the Mets outfield to center field at the Nationals' new park. Schneider came to the New York area Thursday for house-hunting purposes.
The Mets never pursued Lo Duca after their catcher of the past two seasons filed for free agency. The club long has had high regard for Schneider, a veteran of eight big league seasons -- all with the Expos/Nationals franchise -- mostly because of his catching and ability to work with pitchers.
"I think I'm pretty good with handling pitchers and trying to protect them," Schneider said. "Defense for a catcher ... I think sometimes people don't know how important that is."
General manager Omar Minaya recently has been emphasizing "defensive strength up the middle" more than he had in his first two years on the job. Schneider met with Minaya on Thursday. He already had been in contact with pitching coach Rick Peterson.
"They have a good mix here of experience and promising young guys," Schneider said. "I'm going to get tape of all the starters so I can get something on paper."
The Mets had misgivings about Lo Duca as a handler of pitchers and about his pitch-calling almost immediately in 2006. They acknowledge Schneider is not comparable offensively to Lo Duca, although during the last two seasons -- when Lo Duca was part of the Mets higher-powered offense and Schneider played with the Nationals, a weak offensive team -- Schneider averaged slightly more RBIs per 100 at-bats than Lo Duca.
Schneider batted .235 with six homers and 54 RBIs in 408 at-bats last season.
He is pleased to be a member of the Mets after years with a rebuilding team.
"We [the Nationals] did some winning, but this is a different caliber of winning over here. It's a chance to go to the playoffs every year," Schneider said. "I have never been to the playoffs, and I'm excited to have a chance to do it. ... At least I won't have to worry about trying to throw out [Jose] Reyes. Really, it's two or three guys. David [Wright] had a lot of success in situations running in the right counts last year, and then there's [Carlos] Beltran."
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.