MadFriars' Spring Training: Keyvius Sampson

Peoria, AZ -  Keyvius Sampson, 23, was selected in the fourth round in 2009 by the Padres and along with fellow pitcher James Needy is one of best prospects still left from that draft.

For the most part in his five year career with San Diego he has experienced success, with his best season coming in Fort Wayne in 2011 where he went 12-3 with a 2.90 ERA.

Since being drafted he has put on close to thirty pounds of good weight and is a solid six-foot-one and 210 lbs. Sampson relies upon a deceptive four-seam fastball that sits in the low 90s along with a plus change-up.

The key for his success, and what derailed him in San Antonio in 2012, is his ability to be consistent with a third pitch. Last season, after struggling at the beginning of the season in AAA Tucson, he returned to San Antonio, went back to his old mechanics and began throwing his slider again. The result? Increased velocity and a 10-4 record with a 2.26 ERA as one of the best pitchers in the Texas League.

This year Sampson will begin the year in El Paso's rotation and if he can show consistency with his third pitch he might not be that far away from San Diego.

The slider was a big reason for your success last year in San Antonio. How has it been coming along?

Keyvius Sampson: Its actually been a little better. Last year it was good but kind of big. This spring its been coming in a little tighter and smaller. I have much better control over it so I am able to throw it for strikes when I need too and make it more of a wipeout pitch when I get two strikes.

I am actually learning how to stay behind it instead of being on top of it and getting around it.

It sounds like its actually two pitches, the one you throw for strikes and the other that you make the guy like stupid.

Keyvius Sampson: Well I don't know about making them look stupid. [laughs]. Those are men with bat up there.

Yes, but it is two pitches. I'm happy with it but have to continue to work with it and really get it down.

We've been talking about your curve ball for a few years now, how it comes and goes. What is the progress right now?

Keyvius Sampson: I think its just like JJ {Missions' pitching coach Jimmie Johnson} was telling me, just try to bounce it. That way it keeps it down and sets your eyes on a lower target. The big thing for me is to make sure that I am in front of it and not throwing it behind my head or throw it to early.

The big thing is just keeping my arm speed the same.

You are at the point in your career where most of the pitches are there. It seems like the big key for you now is just consistency. How does that affect your training in the off-season?

Keyvius Sampson: Its more of a mental thing. I try to work on things like that especially when I'm doing my bullpen work. I try to put myself in certain situations in a game where I have to really nail the location.

Physically I think I'm ok but for me the big thing is to be strong mentally and not loose focus.

How has the batting been coming?

Keyvius Sampson: Ah man, I thought you were going to ask me that. [laughs]. Its only been a little bit up in big league camp. We did some bunting and I tied for first with [Andrew] Cashner in the competition that we had - which really wasn't too fair because he gets to practice a little more than I do.

It was fun and just talking to Doc [Dave Roberts, the Padre' bench coach] and those guys its a way for you to stay in games longer.

How much does it help being in big league camp?

Keyvius Sampson: It helps a lot. I had Cash, Tyson Ross and Johnson were talking to me during the game and letting me know when to focus on certain parts of the game. Its about how they carry themselves and how to prepare before games.

That is the part that really helped me the most, just learning how to prepare.

Do you think you are going to enjoy El Paso more than Tucson?

Keyvius Sampson: I don't know we'll see. I just can't wait to see the park. I just want to go out there and start off the right way. It should be a good team, good pitching, speed and power.

It's all you could want.

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