In three appearances through Wednesday, Kilby had allowed two runs in 4.1 innings of work at the AFL. Wednesday he turned in his best AFL performance to date, throwing two perfect innings and striking out two batters. Strikeouts are nothing new for Kilby as a pro. For his career, he is averaging nearly 11 strikeouts per nine innings and in 2007 he whiffed 85 batters in 74 innings.
The Northern California native began the season in High-A Stockton, but after striking out 16 in 8.1 innings, Kilby was promoted to Double-A Midland, where he spent the rest of the season. He was one of the Rockhounds' top relievers in 2007, working in 47 games and posting a 2.88 ERA over 65.2 innings in his first taste of Double-A baseball. It was a big season for Kilby, who jumped two levels in one year after spending the entire 2006 season in Low-A Kane County, where he had a 1.63 ERA in 60.2 innings.
We spoke to the left-handed reliever on Wednesday to get his thoughts on the AFL, his jump to Double-A and his goals for next season.
OaklandClubhouse: How do you feel like the competition has been in the Arizona Fall League thus far?
Brad Kilby: I think the competition is tremendous. Almost every guy in this league is going to be in the big leagues, I think. It's been first class, the competition. Every guy seems like he is an All-Star in the league he played in. Every hitter seems like a one-two hitter or a three-four hitter. Every hitter seems to either be quick or have power. I think it has been a really interesting experience so far.
OC: What did you do to prepare for the AFL? Did you take some time off after the season was over or did you jump right into training for the league as soon as Midland's season was done?
BK: They actually didn't tell me that I was going until about September 8th or 9th, so I was basically going into my off-season at that point and was taking a couple of weeks off before I started preparing for next season. When they told me I was going, I started playing catch three or four times a week and I was in the gym three or four times a week, just doing regular stuff. Nothing too serious. I was just trying to stay in good enough game shape to be able to play.
OC: Do you have interaction with the A's coaching staff while playing at Phoenix Muni or are you dealing solely with the Phoenix Desert Dogs' staff at this point?
BK: Todd Steverson, the Midland manager, he's over with [the Desert Dogs]. He's the third base coach and he's in the dugout. Basically, he's almost like another head coach. He isn't officially a head coach, but he does a lot with the A's players and he's just like a personal hitting coach for the A's prospects. I've also heard that Ron Romanick [A's Minor League Pitching Coordinator and 2008 major league bullpen coach] will come over here starting Monday when Instructional Leagues are over, so we'll have him here, too.
OC: Is it nice to have Todd Steverson on the Phoenix staff after working with him for most of the season in Midland?
BK: Yeah, it's nice. It's good because I am comfortable with him. He makes me relax and makes me laugh by joking around. We want to win, but this league is more about trying to stack up against the tough competition and having a fun experience playing against the best players. Having him here, it's kept me relaxed and having fun.
OC: What was the jump from Single-A to Double-A like for you this season?
BK: To me, the difference between High-A and Double-A is that the hitters don't swing at bad pitches in Double-A. Most of the hitters there can make you pay for a mistake. If you throw a pitch down the middle [in Double-A] and you mean to throw it inside, they can hit the ball a long way at that level. Don't get me wrong, they can do that in High-A, too, but it seems like they are more experienced in Double-A. I went from being one of the oldest guys in Stockton to being one of the youngest guys in Midland. It seemed like everyone there was more ready for the big leagues at Double-A.
OC: You had an outstanding second half of the season for the second year in a row. Do you feel like it takes you a little bit of time to get going at the start of the season, or is that just a coincidence that you have done better in the second half thus far in your career?
BK: It looks that way, but I don't know what it is that causes it. I actually felt really good at the start of this season. It was a little different when I got to Double-A because I had never thrown to Landon Powell, who was the catcher there, before this season. During the second half, Anthony Recker got called up and he's basically been my catcher for three years now. I think I was basically more relaxed in the second half. I kind of knew my role on the team at that point. It was a really big adjustment for me in the first half because I kind of went up [to Midland] and only knew maybe three guys on the team. I took me a little while to get settled in. I don't know though. Maybe when the weather starts heating up, I start heating up as well. [laughs]
OC: Are you equally comfortable against righties and lefties at this point, or do you see yourself more as a lefty specialist?
BK: I think I am comfortable against both. I tend to pitch inside against righties to tie them up. My slider came around late this year, so I really didn't have that pitch against lefties for a lot of the season. I feel more comfortable facing both, to tell you the truth. If I was going out there just to face lefties, I might be pitching more frequently, but I like the full one-inning deal. It doesn't really matter who I face.
OC: Are you focusing on developing that slider against lefties while in the AFL?
BK: Yeah, actually [on Wednesday] I faced a guy from the Braves named [Jordan] Schafer [a left-handed hitter] and I threw him four sliders and threw three of them for strikes and struck him out. That is something I am definitely working on. If a lefty comes up, I am going to be throwing a first pitch slider in the Fall League because that is pretty much what they ask you to do in the big leagues. That's one thing I'm working on. The other thing I am working on is getting into a little bit better shape again. This is kind of like the off-season, as well, so I am focusing on getting myself ready for next year.
OC: Has playing in the AFL changed your plans for your preparations this off-season? Will you take time off after the league is over or will you jump into where your off-season plan would have been had you not been in the league and it had been a normal off-season?
BK: I'm going to take two weeks off to have surgery to take my tonsils out, but as soon as that is done, I'm going to go work-out with the same personal trainer I worked with last year. I thought that worked well for me last year. This year, they are going to put me on a stricter diet. My plan is to jump right into the training program as soon as the two weeks for the surgery are over. I'm going to come down to Arizona in early February just to be here and get some extra work in.
OC: Do you have any different expectations going into spring training this year after having been in Double-A for most of the year and proving that you could pitch well at that level?
BK: I'd be a fool if I didn't say that I want to play in Sacramento. That is my hometown. Obviously, in an ideal world, I'd be there and then have a shot at a call-up to the big leagues sometime next year. That would be ideal. But if they send me back to Midland, that would be fine with me. I know that Danny Putnam went straight from Midland to the big leagues this year. As long as I am healthy and playing somewhere, I'll be happy.
OC: Are promotions like Putnam's something that you guys pay attention to? I know that both he and Dallas Braden began the year in Double-A and were in the big league before too long. Is that something that gives everyone on the Double-A team a sense that they aren't that far away from the big leagues?
BK: I'd say yes. You see guys jump from Double-A to the big leagues all of the time now. I think Cameron Maybin made the jump from Double-A to the Tigers this year. And a couple of other guys in other organizations did it as well. You see those guys do it and be successful in the big leagues and you start to realize that the competition level isn't that much different between Double-A, Triple-A and the big leagues. It's just the stadium size and the fans, that's the biggest difference. I think promotions like that give us all confidence that we could play in the big leagues because those guys have done it.
OC: Was there a highlight for you this season?
BK: I would say definitely one of the biggest highlights this season was pitching in Sacramento at the exhibition game of the Ports versus the River Cats [right before the start of the regular season]. I was able to pitch in front of about 75 family and friends. That is definitely in the top two baseball moments in my entire life. Being drafted is probably number one and that is probably number two. It was incredible [pitching in Sacramento]. They gave me a standing ovation and then I went one-two-three against three Triple-A players. I actually think that made me realize that I could pitch at the next level, at least at Double-A, this season. That was probably the highlight of the season for me.