Padres Prospect Interview: Neil Jamison

San Antonio, TX-- Ramona High School's Neil Jamison is one of the Padres better minor league relief pitchers, leading the organization with 34 saves in 2006. Jamison throws everything down in the zone with significant sink – consistent pitches that rarely hover around the belt.

Jamison, 23, has the type of control that the organization wants to see in a relief pitcher, walking only 31 batters in 106.2 innings against 114 strikeouts.

Last year, he caught a break when the Storm's closer Matt Varner was suspended for testing positive for a banned substance and was promoted from Fort Wayne at the beginning of the year. The former Long Beach State product proceeded to strike out 62 batters in 65.1 innings against only 15 walks. He can be a little hittable, giving up 63 hits and did struggle against left-handed batters who hit .303 off of him. If you are going to beat Jamison, however, the hitter is going to have to do it; he's not going to walk you.

Even though he's saved 10 out 13 opportunities, his ERA has blown up after a tough May, mainly on a few bad outings against Frisco and Midland, to 7.71. A better indication of the type of pitcher Jamison is the line he posted for April; nine saves in 10 opportunities against one loss.

Last year you got a break when you got moved up from Fort Wayne when Matt Varner got suspended. What was the biggest adjustment for you in skipping a level?

Neil Jamison: I just kind of focused on the same things, throwing strikes, not beating myself. Throughout my pro career and in college that has been my thing, don't walk people and make them hit the ball to get on. It wasn't too big a jump but obviously there are much better hitters..

The California League is a much tougher league for pitchers.

Neil Jamison: Oh yeah, it really reinforces the idea that you have to keep the ball down or you can get hurt. Elsinore is a much better pitchers park than other places in the league, but you know it's harder on pitchers than the Midwest League.

Everything we have read and seen with you is that you keep the ball down at all times. What exactly do you throw, fastball, slider and change?

Neil Jamison: Yeah that is pretty close, only I would call it a developing change [laughs]. This winter I worked on a two-seam fastball in Hawaii which would help me be more effective against left-hand batters because that was one my weaknesses last year.

That was my next question.

Neil Jamison: It's come along pretty well but is still a work in progress.

Do you feel more comfortable facing lefties this year compared to last?

Neil Jamison: Much more. Just throw it up there, throw it in the strike zone and force them to swing the bat. Kind of let them get themselves out if it's down and away and hope that they roll it over.

You seem to have a mentality of, "this is my pitch, and if you can beat it do it."

Neil Jamison: You kind of have to have that mentality as a pitcher, especially as a closer. You have to be confident in your strengths – not so much the hitter's weaknesses. If you are worrying too much about what they can do you're going to get away from what you are trying to do.

As opposed to going over the whole lineup on the hitter's strengths or weaknesses, your plan seems to be if I put a few balls on either corners at the knees I'm going to be successful.

Neil Jamison: You're aware of certain hitters and their strengths and weaknesses and it plays into it, but I'm going to take my shot at my strength versus their strength.

As for the standard question that you have to ask closers, how do you bounce back after a blown save? When you talk to you guys it always seems to be tougher than other players because the team is so close to a win.

Neil Jamison: It goes both ways. I learned a long while ago you have to have a short memory if you are a closer whether you have a 1-2-3 inning or you give up four runs because you might be out there tomorrow. It doesn't matter. You have your outing, you take it into the clubhouse, learn what you can, and then get ready to go out there the next day.

It seems if you don't have that approach you shouldn't be closing games.

Neil Jamison: [Laughs] Yeah, I guess. I've been pretty fortunate in my career that I've always had that mentality.

Last question, when you came up from Long Beach State did you enjoy pitching against the wooden bats as opposed to aluminum and breaking bats with inside pitches?

Neil Jamison: Yeah, definitely. I seem to get more broken bats than the other guys just because the way that I pitch. You know you're doing your job when you're breaking the bats and the ball isn't hit well. It's usually going to end up in an out and that's you're trying to do.


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