The big key for Keyvius' future success will be his ability to command three pitches. He's is off to a rough start in Tucson with a 6.97 ERA in three starts.
We caught up with Keyvius at the end of the spring to talk about lessons learned in the higher levels and his goals for this year.
Your second half numbers were much better than in the first. Can you tell us why they improved so much?
Keyvius Sampson: Mainly I was just attacking hitters more and trying to find the happy medium of not being so deliberate. Once got those down, which were my two main things, a lot of the mechanics fell into place, which really helped me throw my curve ball for strikes.
I was working more on pitching to contact and trying to not always go for the strikeout.
When you talk about pitching to contact, that doesn't mean putting the ball down the middle.
Keyvius Sampson: No, no. [laughs]. You are looking at the plate in thirds, so you want to hit either the outside or the inside third of the plate and down in the zone. Most of the time if you can do that you will get a weak ground ball or a pop-up.
You never want to go down the middle, just asking for trouble.
At the lower levels you had a lot of success because most pitchers can't throw in and out to go along with a change of speeds. You go up to AA and find out that is not enough.
Keyvius Sampson: Exactly, you have to pitch more and set batters up. They have much more of an idea of what they are trying to do. At lower levels I was able to get more fastballs by guys and my mistakes weren't punished as they were up here.
At this level you have to get most of your pitches around their knees on the edges of the plate. Also being able to throw my curve ball really helped me out later in the season.
One thing that has to be tough is in AA more batters are willing to go the other way. When I watched you in Eugene and Fort Wayne you were able to place your fastball on the outside corner because so many guys were always looking middle-in.
How did you adjust?
Keyvius Sampson: Especially the bottom of the order guys who really try to poke it out there. The trick is to get them to elevate it, especially the little guys, so you have to kind of bust them in.
What is the toughest thing about throwing the curve?
Keyvius Sampson: Mainly just trying to do too much with it. I was trying to force it to break too much instead of just releasing it. Just letting my arm action work and not trying to put a little more on it. The key is to get the consistent arm angle.
When people read that you throw three pitches, fastball, change-up and curveball - it's not that you throw all three equally. Don't you throw about seventy to eighty percent fastballs?
Keyvius Sampson: You want to show the curve and change but also to be able to throw it for strikes so you can get inside the hitter's head. I want to get them all to the point where I can throw all three at any time.
If you want to be a starter in the big leagues you have to be able to throw all three.
That is your big goal consistency?
Keyvius Sampson: It is. I think I have the fastball and change. The curve is coming and I feel good about it. The coaches think my curve has the potential to be my go-to pitch but you know it has to be consistent.