Physically Sampson is much different now than the skinny 6',185 lbs. eighteen year old that was drafted out of Ocala, Florida which is just south of Gainesville. Weights and an improved diet now have him coming in at a solid 6'1", 225 lbs.
Under Randy Smith the Padres are taking an aggressive tact with Sampson, having him skip high-A Lake Elsinore and sending him straight to San Antonio.
We caught up with Keyvius late in spring training to talk about what he is going to be working on this year.
When you first came into the organization the big question with you was on your mechanics and you ended up having very good command of your fastball at Eugene.
The next year it was about your ability to throw a second pitch and your change-up helped you to become one of the better pitchers in the Midwest League.
What is on the agenda for this year?
Keyvius Sampson: My curveball. I have been really working very hard with it, especially on trying to get it more consistent. I think my curveball will really help me this year along with my fastball and changeup still being there.
When you talk about working on your curveball when do you really have time? You threw more innings than you ever have in your career in 2011, you need to rest your arm so when does this process begin?
Keyvius Sampson: For me it started physically with my head. In the past I had kind of thrown my head hard to the left side so by keeping it straight it helped me so I am going towards the plate with my arm on top of the ball.
So before you put in the physical work in the bullpen you must be looking at quite a bit of video.
Keyvius Sampson: The coaching staff really helps me out a lot and lets me know what they saw. They will tell me this is what happened when it was working and when it was not.
When do you start throwing? The minor league season ends around Labor Day. Then you have Instructs and I assume you take some time off to rest physically and mentally.
Keyvius Sampson: I take about two weeks off in terms of lifting at the end of the season. As far as throwing I will start up around the middle of December to make sure I get the arm and shoulder in shape.
And that is just on flat ground?
Keyvius Sampson: Yes. I won't start throwing off of the mound until the end of December or beginning of January. I try to take it pretty slow and not rush anything because that is when you get hurt.
We gave one of our friends at Baseball Prospectus Kevin Goldstein some grief because he referred to you as slight. I haven't heard many people who weight 225 lbs. as "slight" before.
Keyvius Sampson: [laughs] One of our trainers at the start of the year was going to give me a shirt and I said you better make it an XL.
He said don't you weigh around 185?
I said, "No I'm a little bigger now, around 223.
I've put on quite a few pounds since high school.
When we talked last year in Fort Wayne you are around the weight you wanted to be now. You said your goal was to get up around 225 and you are around 6'1".
How does the added weight help you on the mound?
Keyvius Sampson: It helps my core and your body goes through so much during the year it helps you keep your strength during the year.
Last year you threw as many innings as you ever had before in the past. It has to give you a lot of confidence.
Keyvius Sampson: Definitely. Knowing the steps that I have to do to maintain my arm and conditioning for a whole year lets me know what I need to do to improve. Mainly, the type of work that I am going to be putting in with the trainers.
I asked you last year how your two-seamer was coming along. Your reply was "do you see that center field wall over there?" "That is where my last two-seamer lives."
How has it been coming around this spring?
Keyvius Sampson: [laughs] Its gotten a lot better but its still not where my curve ball is. I learned a lot on my curve from Bronswell Patrick [the pitching coach of the Lake Elsinore Storm].
I was trying to start it inside instead of in the middle of the plate and letting it run inside to the batter. Its been helping me and I got some strikeouts with it the other day.
Right now I'm more focused on my curve ball because I want to be able to throw it at any time in the count.