MadFriars' Interview: Kyle Lloyd

FORT WAYNE - A good friend of mine’s is prone to quote ESPN’s Chris Berman at every opportunity he can with the phrase, “That is why they play the game.”

The reason for him saying it, other than to pointlessly annoy all of the people around him, is to emphasize that we never really know how things will turn out in sports until you get on the field.

RHP Kyle Lloyd, was a twenty-ninth round draft pick (and for those of you playing along at home, taken a round after the Padres took Johnny Manziel in this year’s draft) in 2013 out of the University of Evansville.

Players taken at that level are usually selected for the purposes of filling out roster spots in the short-season and are considered long-shots to every really become prospects.

But Lloyd, 23, improved every year he was a member of the Purple Aces finishing off his senior year with a 2.68 ERA in 94 innings and a 99/34 strikeout to base-on-balls ratio.In his first year with Eugene, the six-foot-four, 230 lbs. Lloyd was particularly impressive with a 4-1 record and 2.30 ERA in 47 innings with 51 strikeouts against only 15 walks.

This year with the TinCaps he is 5-4 4.13 ERA with 120 strikeouts against 27 walks. He is leading the organization and the Midwest League in strikeouts.

You are from the University of Evansville but you are originally from California is that correct?

Kyle Lloyd: That is correct.

How did you get out to Indiana?

Kyle Lloyd: I grew up in the Sacramento area for my first ten years and then we moved to Florida for my parents job. Then we moved to Carmel, Indiana - which is just outside of Indianapolis - and we lived there from when I was 12 to my freshman year of college. My parents have since moved back to California.

How did you get to Evansville?

Kyle Lloyd: Mainly just being from here. I went to a few showcase events and the coaches saw me. When I went on my first visit I really liked the pitching coach, who was only there for my first year and I really liked the small school feel.

One thing that I found was interesting was that for so many of guys in pro ball the domination begins really early. They have an ERA under one, they strike out everyone.

That really wasn’t the case with you. In your four years there you really improved.

What led to your improvement?

Kyle Lloyd: I don’t know actually. I only played summer ball after my freshman year, the other years they said I threw too many innings to play in the summer.

My sophomore year I was kind of thrown into a starter role as the Friday guy, because our top pitchers got injured in the same week and I kind of just got put in there. I think that was a big learning point for me, just learning how to survive.

I wasn’t a starter to begin my junior year, but after the first weekend I got switched over and I just started to build and try to learn from my experiences.

I gained some velocity my senior year but I was always thinking after college it would be the end of my baseball career. I was getting ready to go out and work in the real world - applying for jobs and grad school.

It wasn’t that I didn’t love baseball but I just thought it was the end of the road for me. So when I got this chance I just thought it was an amazing opportunity.

You had a good season in Eugene, so you had to feel pretty good. So what were you doing in Eugene to get hitters out?

Kyle Lloyd: Pretty much the same as in college; get ahead. I really rely upon my split fastball. If I get ahead that is what I go to. As long as I can get ahead that is what has gotten me to this point and hopefully that is what will keep me here and allow me to move up.

I always think its kind of funny when I hear or read that pitchers have to “get ahead” or “pound the zone with strikes” but if you throw the ball down the middle it’s going to go a long way.

But if you try to hit the corners, then you are trying to be too fine. How do you strike a balance?

Kyle Lloyd: It’s a tough balance. You have to make sure you throw quality strikes but sometimes as Burt Hooten [the TinCaps’ pitching coach] says you have to play good old-fashioned country hardball and throw a strike even if it catches a good part of the plate.

You hope that you’re fastball is good enough that day to get them out.

What do you throw?

Kyle Lloyd: I throw both a four and two-seam fastball. I throw a straight chance, a split and a slider. What is the difference between your split and your change-up?

Kyle Lloyd: The split just drops right at the plate, the change is more of a classical change-up. It has a little bit of fade but it’s more of a change of pace.

What has been the biggest change between the Midwest and Northwest Leagues?

Kyle Lloyd: The hitters are more disciplined. In the Northwest League you get a lot of hitters that are coming off of their junior year in college or the young Dominicans that don’t really have that approach.

I’m sure as the levels goes up the hitter’s approach becomes more refined.

You always hear that most hitters are usually looking for something middle-in so it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that most of you guys are trying to throw something on the outside corner that they don’t want to hit.

Is that correct?

Kyle Lloyd: I try to get ahead hard away and get outs inside soft [fastball on the outside, breaking pitches inside]. That is what Burt preaches and what everyone tries to do.

How much has your off-season changed since you have become a pro?

Kyle Lloyd: Not that much; I did what I usually did in college. Being a four year college player you begin to understand what you need to do and what you can’t do in the off-season.

I didn’t really do anything different, many of the same lifts and running. It’s just about being prepared.

What is the biggest part of your game that you are trying to improve?

Kyle Lloyd: Really trying to improve my consistency and get the outs that I need to. You need to get ahead so you can throw the pitches that you want to.

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