SAN ANTONIO, Texas – Since Kyle Lloyd arrived in the Padres’ system in 2013, he has toggled back and forth between being in the rotation and coming out of the bullpen. However, one thing that has been consistent is his plus splitter; a pitch that seemingly drops straight down.
“Because he has an out pitch I’m not sure whether his future will be in the rotation or in the bullpen. But his splitter is a special out pitch and that will play,” said Missions’ manager Phillip Wellman.
“When gets to two strikes he’s very tough on batters, which is why he gets so many strikeouts; the bottom drops out.”
Lloyd, 26, was drafted in the 29th round out of the University of Evansville in 2013 and had a very big year in Fort Wayne in 2014 with 155 strikeouts in 119.2 innings with a 3.61 ERA.
After bouncing between starting and relief last year, he found himself back in the rotation where he posted a 3.16 ERA as a starter with a 77/33 strikeout to base-on-balls ratio as a starter.
This season, the six-foot-four, 225 lbs. Lloyd has been among the Texas League leaders in strikeouts and is leading the team in innings pitched. With the exception of a bad second inning in Midland in mid-April, he’s been one of the better pitchers in the league.
MadFriars: You have one of the lowest batting averages against and highest strikeouts per nine innings in the Texas League. What has been the reason for your success?
Kyle Lloyd: Other than that one inning, it has been good. I’ve been able to attack hitters and pick up where I left off last year. I think it’s more about having the right mentality as a starter and the same preparation that leads to success.
In Fort Wayne, a few years ago you had a lot of strikeouts, so it’s always been there. Now you are at Double-A what did you add to get the success you are having now.
What is the biggest difference between who you are now as opposed to a few years ago?
Kyle Lloyd: Having a third pitch, a slider has really helped. Back then I was pretty much fastball and a splitter. I also have a fourth pitch in a straight changeup, which I don’t throw as much, but it is there.
Also, my fastball is more of a sinker than a four-seamer now.
Just so we have the terminology down, your sinker has a drop, the splitter goes straight down and the slider breaks to which side?
Kyle Lloyd: The slider breaks away from the right-handed batter. It’s a little sharper now, not as loopy.
Usually guys like you that are getting a lot of strikeouts are not going as deep into games because of pitch counts, but you have thrown as many innings as anyone so far.
Kyle Lloyd: I try to get strike one before I throw any balls, so that is a big part of it. If I can get ahead as much as I can that puts you in the driver’s seat as a pitcher. If you are ahead, you get to throw the pitches you want and force them to make bad contact or they swing over it.
It seems like the scouting report on you would be to be aggressive on the first three pitches because hitters don’t want to face your best pitch – the splitter – when they are behind in the count.
Kyle Lloyd: I think that plays in my favor. If my off-speed is working that day, then I will get some swings early in the count which will help me go deeper into the game too.
You enjoy the punchouts but you probably enjoy under three pitch outs more.
Kyle Lloyd: Yes, that is definitely true.
Only thing we can ding you on is your walks.
Kyle Lloyd: Lately they have been a little high. I don’t know what is going on there, but I have to reign that in. It is something that I have been conscious of and am working on with Jimmy [Jones] in the bullpen.
I think it’s still a little early in the season and as my feel gets better, it will even out.
Is it something that you think can be fixed in bullpens? Is it mechanical?
Kyle Lloyd: I think it just that they are quick walks within four or five pitches. A batter gets away from me and it’s more of a focus or concentration thing.
As always, you want to be in the big leagues as a reliever or a starter, but it seems like the starter’s routine fits your personality more because you are very routine oriented.
Kyle Lloyd: It does because my personality off the field is very routine oriented. As a starter, I can carry that daily. I can work on certain things each day because, before I show up on the field, I know what I am going to do.
That plays into who I am, which is a nice blend of who I am as a baseball player.
Last year Jerry Keel made an interesting comment after moving from the bullpen to the rotation that it is easier to improve when you have those four days in between each outing.
It is easier to work on something new or fix something that is not going right. You can’t do that when you might have to pitch every night.
Kyle Lloyd: That is true. You get your bullpen in between days and can refine more into the next outing.