MadFriars' Interview: Keyvius Sampson

SAN ANTONIO: Coming into the season the Padres made a big move of skipping Keyvius Sampson, their 2011 Minor League Pitcher of the Year, from Low-A Fort Wayne straight to AA San Antonio.

Sampson, 21, is one of the youngest players in AA and his season and until this point it has been up and down. In a nutshell his biggest problem this season has been walking a too many people mainly because he is adjusting to some mechanical adjustments.

After a rocky first few months the changes are beginning to take hold. In his past four starts he has allowed four earned runs and in his two most recent starts in July he is 2-0 with an 0.71 ERA.

We caught up with Keyvius on our visit to San Antonio in June to find out about his adjustments to the Texas League.

You have a big difference between how you pitch at home [2.36 ERA] compared to how you do on the road [7.02 ERA]. Why the big difference?

Keyvius Sampson: I don't know what it is honestly because I was was like that last year too. It could be the home crowd or something else, but I'm aware of it and I will correct it.

I've always been impressed by how calm you are on the mound. The other night there were some things that didn't go right for you in the field and you couldn't even tell by your demeanor on the mound.

Have you always been like that as a teammate?

Keyvius Sampson: Yes sir. I've always been a leader on every team that I've been on. I know guys are going out there and working as hard as they can.

They are always coming back to me and saying, "Give me another ground ball and I'll get it," so you have to respect that. And more times than they make errors they save me by making great plays in the field on balls that should be hits.

They are also the ones that are getting me runs [laughs], so you have to like that.

In Spring Training we talked about your curveball coming along. How has that been going this year? Keyvius Sampson: Its been coming along. Last night it was good because I was able to get strikes early in the count. For the season my biggest problem has been with fastball command.

You changed your delivery from last year and are using your legs more than before.

Why?

Keyvius Sampson: Its kind of to help to some strain off of my arm and to increase my velocity. I used to be really slow to the plate and they were thinking that my body wasn't catching up with my arm speed and it could cause further shoulder injuries.

So I worked to get my legs involved more and its been taking awhile to get my fastball command to where I want it. The velo is there and the command has been getting better in the bullpen and now in games.

I know a decision that big comes from the top but it must be a big help to have someone like Tim Worrell [the San Antonio Pitching coach] working with you because he spent a lot of time where you want to go.

Keyvius Sampson: He is a lot of help. He's always giving me some insight on how I can improve. I also think it was his decision on changing my tempo.

After he watched my first outing he was kind of quiet and wanted to see me pitch a little more. I think he was kind of impressed that I was really willing to change things because I am the type of person that is going to stick with things if I think it can help me down the road.

It must be really tough to make a change right now because just the slightest change turns a good pitch into a cookie for hitters.

Keyvius Sampson: It is tough especially in the middle of the season because you know its going to affect your numbers. But as they tell you its not about numbers but development.

I'm still fairly young for this level. But its also hard to lose and not give your team a chance to win. I have to remember that this isn't a sprint but a nice little jog to the big leagues and hopefully stay.

How surprised were you when the Padres told you that you were going to San Antonio instead of Lake Elsinore?

Keyvius Sampson: They told me before spring it could happen so I tried to put myself in the best position to come here. I was still shocked because sometimes you think they already have the team made up before spring.

I was kind of shocked because I had driven my car out thinking I was going to California, because we can drive Arizona to California and I had to ship it here, I didn't want to get my hopes up.

You missed a few fun parks in the Cal League.

Keyvius Sampson: [laughs] That is what they tell me. I figure I probably saved a run off of my career ERA.

What is the biggest difference between pitching in the Midwest League compared to the Cal League?

Keyvius Sampson: Guys have a much better idea of what they are trying to do. A lot more of my mistakes are getting hit.

Its mostly the veteran guys who don't swing at breaking pitches that are out of the zone. The big thing that I have had to learn this year is to try to not be too fine and trust my stuff more and throw strikes.

A lot of these guys will actually take certain pitches because its not the type or in a certain zone. If I can throw strikes early in the count its going to put me in the driver's seat.

If you go right at guys they are still human. They are going to make mistakes too, so its been a learning experience.

A long time ago when I talked to you in Eugene you talked about playing third base in high school and you were going to have to wait until you got to AA to hit.

How has swinging the bat been?

Keyvius Sampson: [laughs] Oh it's fun. No pressure because we are expected to get outs. I still don't have a batting average.

You haven't hit since high school and now you have to hit against AA pitching?

Keyvius Sampson: Yes sir, it gets a little interesting. I keep looking for that first pitch fastball. All the guys give us a hard time of not being athletes.

I take it the first time you hit a home run people are going to hear about it a little?

Keyvius Sampson: [laughs] Oh yeah. I'm going to need the ball on that one and whole bunch of other stuff too.


MadFriars Top Stories