MadFriars' Interview: Kevin Quackenbush

WASHINGTON, DC: Relief pitcher Kevin Quackenbush, 25, was drafted in the eighth round of the 2011 draft by the Padres out of South Florida University.

Because he was a fourth year senior with limited negotiating leverage he was signed for a relative pittance of $5,000 according to Baseball America. However despite not receiving a big bonus or a lot of hype Quackenbush quickly put up some stellar numbers between Eugene and Fort Wayne with 71 strikeouts in 42 innings against only 12 walks in his pro debut.

The next year in Lake Elsinore he may been even better with a 0.94 ERA and a 70/22 strikeout to base-on-balls ratio in 57.2 innings. Last season between San Antonio and Tucson he had his first "off" year with a 10 - 2 record that saw his ERA balloon to 1.66.

What makes Quackenbush so effective? Simply most batters can't seem to find the ball from his deceptive motion and the precision with which he delivers his four-seam fastball. This spring he has added a splitter and the reports out of camp were that it was working.

As demonstrated by Jim Callis' column for Baseball America in the link, there are questions about his velocity and the quality of his secondary pitches. Also, as Callis accurately notes, many minor league closers can have relatively inflated statistics compared to their actual value on the major league level.

If you have doubts about this theory, review Brad Brach's first three years in the Padres' minor league system.

But as with everything, there are opinions and there are facts. Quackenbush has only walked 67 batters in 178 innings against 237 strikeouts. He has 67 saves in four seasons to go along with a 1.16 ERA. This season he is a perfect six for six in save opportunities and looks like he has always been since he has been in the system, dominant.

Regardless of any theory, his body of work demonstrates he deserves a chance in the big leagues to show what he can and can't do.

In late April he was briefly called up to the big club for their series with the Washington Nationals. We caught up with Kevin after his big league debut.

How did you hear the news that you were coming up to the majors?

Kevin Quackenbush: After the game the last night in Sacramento Pat Murphy [El Paso's manager] called me into the office and told me.

It had to be a nice feeling.

Kevin Quackenbush: It was great. Very shocking.

A friend of mine, David Dodd of the San Diego Reader, wrote an article in which you were featured discussing your secondary pitches. Can you tell us a little about what you are throwing other than your fastball?

Kevin Quackenbush: Basically I was just trying to find something to compliment the fastball, another swing-and-miss pitch. I've always had the curve ball but it wasn't giving me the swing and misses that I wanted.

I've added the splitter and have been having some success with it.

Many people have always talked about in the lower levels that you needed to develop better secondary pitches but at the same time, except for last year, you had ERAs under one.

How difficult is it to develop and work on new pitches when at the same time you are coming in games in highly leveraged situations; going for the save?

Kevin Quackenbush: I've always been a late-inning guy and try to not mess around when I'm out there. But then again the best way to get used to throwing those pitches is in a game as compared to a bullpen session.

It's always going to show the true colors of how well the pitch is working. I think I could throw a flat ground or a bullpen and it might be totally different. It's just about getting the experience and being comfortable doing it, which is where I want to be.

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