Name: Neil Jamison
DOB: August 4, 1983
This was the rebound year and was going swimmingly before an elbow injury put an end to his season prematurely.
After seeing his ERA rise at each level as he climbed the ladder, culminating in a 4.32 mark in 2007 with Double-A San Antonio, Jamison was looking for redemption.
"I just think it was command – not throwing strikes and getting behind in counts," Jamison acknowledged.
A fast mover early in his career – thanks to a strong understanding of the game coming from college powerhouse Long Beach State, Jamison stalled in the previous campaign. He went from short-season to Double-A in the span of two years, largely as a ground ball pitcher that threw strikes.
The sidewinding right-hander posted a 2.30 ERA across his first 25 appearances before seeing injury creep up for the first time.
He would return to make four more appearances before getting shutdown for the rest of the year in late July.
Recurring elbow problems tested his resolve and after feeling better in bullpen sessions, issues arose and the pain returned.
Jamison posted a 2.55 ERA across 29 outings, allowing 32 hits in 35.1 innings while striking out 26.
"Just being able to bounce back," Jamison said of what he learned. "I haven't had a stretch like that where I got hit around consistently for nine or 10 outings in a row. It wears on you. You lose confidence and fall behind. You don't want to throw the ball in the zone because every time you do someone is hitting it off the wall.
"It is one of those things where you have to be confident, throw good pitches and let your defense work for you."
The California native works off the movement and downward spin of his fastball. He tosses it in the mid-80s but it has significant life down in the zone. While it is below average in velocity, the movement allows him to see success. When he keeps it in the lower half and on the black, Jamison can be tough to hit – inducing ground ball outs and keeping hitters from getting good wood when they do lift it.
This past year, however, the ball did not offer as much downward movement and hitters were able to elevate the ball. In fact, he didn't register a single double play grounder.
Jamison also has a slider that is an out-pitch to right-handed hitters. Its movement down and away gets hitters chasing outside of the zone. A lot of his strikeouts come off the slider.
The right-hander has been working on a two-seam fastball and changeup over the last two years in an effort to combat left-handers. The changeup has made significant strides towards becoming a solid pitch, and his confidence in the pitch has enabled him to go the other way against left-handers. In previous years, all of his pitches would tail into a lefties wheelhouse. The changeup allowed him to put left-handers off-balance and led to a .171 average against in 41 at-bats – the lowest of his career.
Jamison has always been a poster child for the speed versus movement discussion. With a ball that changes a hitters eye level, he has been successful in the past. In 2007, however, the ball seemed to flatten out a bit. Without velocity, the margin for error was decreased to mere inches.
If a pitch was up in the zone, hitters were able to take advantage and drive it to the deepest parts of the field. That has caused the Padres to look for change.
With a three-quarters delivery that drops down even further at times, the Padres would like to see him consistently use a true sidearm motion to increase the movement on his pitches.
Sinking action comes naturally but the true sidearm approach would give Jamison more movement side to side and give him back the sink that seemed to abandon him at times.
Jamison does not place his front foot down in a true line to the plate. His line is to the third base side of the bag and that creates deception, as the ball stays behind his body for a longer period of time. With the ball tougher to pick up, hitters can be surprised by his fastball, despite its lack of velocity.
Conclusion: Jamison was quickly ascending through the system but the early concern was he might be exposed for his lack of velocity – regardless of movement. That happened and he didn't make enough of an adjustment – until now. If his movement returns, Jamison can still be effective.
He doesn't have the ceiling of others but a reliable arm out of the pen is hard to find. He is unfazed by a bad outing and comes back strong. Not afraid to attack the strike zone, his mentality plays well out of the pen. Harnessing his stuff and staying consistently down in the zone will be essential.
Talk about this story on our subscriber-only message boards