Oakland A's Prospect Q&A: Sam Demel, RP

In 2004, the Oakland A's hit it big by selecting a Texas collegiate reliever early in the draft. That season, the A's took Huston Street in the supplemental first round out of Texas. The A's are hoping for similar results from Sam Demel, another Texas collegiate reliever taken high in the draft. We spoke to the A's 2007 third-round pick about relieving and more…

Good relievers are hard to find, but the Oakland A's have assembled quite a stable of good bullpen arms of late. In particular, the A's have found success with relievers from the state of Texas. Closer Huston Street, set-up man Keith Foulke and former All-Star reliever-turned-starter Justin Duchscherer all grew up in the Lone Star State.

The A's are hoping that another Lone Star reliever will follow in the footsteps of Street, Foulke and Duchscherer. Sam Demel, a hard-throwing right-hander, was selected in the third round by the A's out of Texas Christian University last season.

After signing last season, Demel was sent to High-A Stockton, where he struggled in his first pro action. He walked 15 in 14 innings with the Ports before being sent to Low-A Kane County. Demel pitched much better for the Cougars, allowing only one earned run in 9.1 innings and striking out 10 while walking four.

Demel returned to Stockton at the start of this season, and he has found much better success with the Ports this time around. In 21.1 innings this season, Demel has a 3.38 ERA and five saves for the Ports. He has struck-out 32 and walked 13.

We spoke to Demel recently about the pressures of closing, his Texas high school career and more…

OaklandClubhouse: How has the season been going for you thus far?

Sam Demel: It has been up-and-down. I have been taking my licks early and am trying to figure some stuff out. I feel like I finally have my delivery down and I am ready to go.

OC: Do you enjoy being a closer?

SD: Yeah, I love it. I love the pressure and the feeling that it is just me out there trying to get those three outs, the toughest three outs that you can get in the game.

OC: Is there a different mind-set when you are coming into a game with a one-run lead you need to protect, as opposed to pitching in a blow-out situation?

SD: No, not really. If I look at it any differently with a one-run lead than I would with a 10-run lead, then all I would be doing is hurting myself and hurting my team because every inning could be the last, so that is how I approach it.

OC: Did you bring in anything that you were working on from the off-season or last year?

SD: Yeah. Last year was more about learning my way around and learning about professional baseball. I learned to do a lot more stuff on my own rather than having everything be structured and I have let that carry over.

OC: In high school, you broke Josh Beckett's strike-out record. Were you heavily recruited coming out of high school?

SD: Out of high school, I actually had a lot of full-ride offers to Rice, Houston, Texas. I could have gone pretty much anywhere I wanted to, but I chose TCU over all of them because I felt like I could progress more there and I liked the coaching staff. And you can't really beat Fort Worth.

OC: Do you like relieving? Is that something that you always wanted to do or would you have liked to remain a starter?

SD: It was actually my decision in college [to switch to relieving]. I went to the Cape [Cod League] after my second year and I had a lot of innings during the year, so I called up [the Cape] and said I was just going to relieve. They put me in the closer's role to see how it would work out. I loved it. I fell in love with the role and when I went back to school, we had enough depth in the starting rotation where I could be a closer and be a bigger asset to the team.

OC: There is something about the tradition of hard-throwing pitchers in Texas high school baseball. As a high school pitcher in Texas, did you aspire to be like a Josh Beckett or a Roger Clemens or someone who has come before you in Texas?

SD: Of course, definitely. Growing up, Beckett lived right behind me and watching him grow up and throw in high school, it was cool. You look up to them and try to be like them in how they approached the game and how they pitched.

OC: What was draft day like for you? Obviously, you went pretty high up on the board.

SD: It was exciting and it was stressful. It was something like a three-hour first round, which was kind of ridiculous. But it was an exciting day and a stressful day at the same time. I was glad where I went to. The A's are a good organization and they have a good track record with pitchers.

OC: What is your velocity right now with your fastball?

SD: Anywhere from 91 to 95 right now.

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