Q&A with Jeff Keppinger

Jeff Keppinger seems to have gotten lost in the mix over the last week. With names like Peterson, Kazmir, Benson, and Zambrano being tossed about Keppinger, the second baseman who came over from Altoona (AA for the Pirates organization) is often overlooked when everyone discusses whether or not these were good trades.

Keppinger is batting over .320 for the second year in a row. Last year he finished second in batting in the Carolina League. He is currently third in the league in batting and tenth in hits. He plays a good second base and has better than average range. Before Friday's game I sat down with Keppinger to talk about the trade, his future, and to give him his first opportunity to introduce himself to Mets fans.

NYF: Tell Met fans who you are, as a player and as a person.

Keppinger: I'm a ball player. That's what I do.

NYF: What is unique about you? What do you bring to the table? You're having a great year. Obviously the Mets were interested in you. What are some of the intangibles that you bring?

Keppinger: I don't know if there is any one thing that makes me special.

NYF: Well, if you were a scout and had to rate yourself. What would you say?

Keppinger: I'd say I'm not high on a scout's list or the scouting scales. I wouldn't think so. I mean they look at arm strength, speed, power. I have an average arm, average speed, and I don't hit for power. I swing the bat. That's what I do. I get to the balls that I can and make the plays that I should. I'm not very flashy and I'm not eye candy out there. That's not me. I try and put the ball in play and hopefully it falls in somewhere and I get hit.

NYF: Would you classify yourself as a very consistent player?

Keppinger: Yeah, I'd say that's a very good word for it.

NYF: Did you have any idea that you could be traded?

Keppinger: I had no idea.

NYF: Have you been able to make new friends quickly?

Keppinger: Yeah, these are a great group of guys and they made it real easy for me to come here. They made it real comfortable.

NYF: How much does it help that this is a first place team and that you weren't traded to a last place team?

Keppinger: It's good to win in the minor leagues but we're all here for the same reason and that's to get to the big leagues. So, regardless of whether or not you go to a good team you still have to go out there and play.

NYF: I'd imagine that the clubhouse is a lot more fun when the team is a winning one.

Keppinger: Yeah when you're in last place the policies are stricter. There are more guys on edge. The manager is on edge. When you're in first place the manager lets us go out their and play. It's more relaxed.

NYF: Have you heard any of the stereotypes about the pressure of New York and the New York media?

Keppinger: I heard about it during the A-rod trade. To me it's baseball. As long as I go out there and play my game I know I'll be alright.

NYF: Were you hurt at all that Pittsburgh let you go or were you proud that you were thought of so highly by the Mets organization that they would trade two of their top prospects for you?

Keppinger: As you say, the Mets thought highly of me. That's always nice. It can't hurt me any. Pittsburgh has a lot of good second basemen in their organization ahead of me so maybe I can get a better opportunity here. This may work out for me in the long run. Only time will tell.

NYF: Do you feel you have a better shot of getting to the big leagues in the Mets's organization?

Keppinger: I don't really know. I just got here. I don't know who the Mets have in terms of second basemen in their organization or how they feel about me but it's got to mean something that they wanted me in the trade.

NYF: Will there be any element of revenge should you meet Altoona in the playoffs this year? Will you have anything extra to prove?

Keppinger: No I don't have any of that in me. That's just how baseball works. Trades happen all the time. Just because I'm part of a trade I can't hold a grudge for that.

NYF: You hit .325 last year. This year you were moved up to AA where a drop off in average might have been expected and you have continued to hit over. 320. What is the secret to your success?

Keppinger: All the people that watched me in High School and College thought and told me that I would be better as I moved up in professional ball. When you move up the pitching improves. The pitchers have better command of their pitches and better command of the strike zone. I'm a contact hitter. I'm the kind of guy that will put the ball in play. I don't walk a lot and I don't strike out a lot. So if pitchers are around the plate I'm going to put the ball in play a lot more often. The more balls you put in play the better your chances are of getting a hit.

NYF: Here's something I've always wanted to ask. Because you were with Altoona, don't you know all their signs?

Keppinger: Of course.

NYF: Can't you come in here and tell all your new teammates when they will hit and run and when they will steal?

Keppinger: Definitely. Unfortunately we don't play them for the rest of the year but if we see them in the playoffs you better believe I'm going to give the signs away.

NYF: And you know which pitchers like to come inside on what counts and who will throw a changeup on a 3-2 count?

Keppinger: Sure, and like I said if we play them again I'll definitely try and help Binghamton out.>br>
NYF: Doesn't Altoona know that you know? How does it work?

Keppinger: When I was on Altoona we had played against guys who had played under our manager and you can't just change the signs for every guy who leaves the team. I guess if they start noticing that I'm stealing signs or they see that I've tipped off some hitters they might try to switch but I kind of have a little knowledge of what they might switch to. It will be very interesting.

NYF: Do you play any other positions?

Keppinger: Yeah, I can play short or third. Since I've been in pro ball they haven't given me a shot to play short. I played third a couple games last year. They were trying to see if Bautista, the guy who Altoona got when the Mets sent away Huber, could play second with me at third. I played there a couple of games and I guess he didn't work out too well over there so I went back to second and stayed there the rest of the year.

NYF: So you had played with Bautista before?

Keppinger: Yeah, we were on the same team.

NYF: Do you participate in any other sports?

Keppinger: I'm into fishing.

NYF: Do you have any last thoughts on everything that as happened to you in the last seven days? I'm sure it has been sort of an emotional roller coaster for you.

Keppinger: It was hard packing up all my stuff and getting over to Binghamton and joining a new team but it wasn't terrible. The guys I played with in Altoona, it's not like I had been playing with them for a long time. This is only my third season. There were also a lot of new guys on the team. There were only like three or four guys who were on the team [with me] the year before. That was kind of a new team for me as well so switching wasn't really a big deal.

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