The Pittsburgh Pirates drafted Shane Kemp out of George Washington in the 2015 MLB draft. Kemp, a 26th round pick and worked as a relief pitcher for Bristol this season.
Shane Kemp was a shortstop turned pitcher at George Washington. The Pittsburgh Pirates liked the results and makeup of him to make him part of their organization. Kemp pitched all season in Short-Season A Bristol this season. He threw 35.1 innings this season in 18 games. The 6’3” right-handed pitcher posted a 3.82 earned run average and a 1.25 WHIP.
Not only is Shane a talented young pitcher, but he also is a great guy. He has always taken the time out to chat with me about how his season is going. With that he was nice enough to answer some questions regarding his first full season in the minors and some other questions.
What was your first full-season like? How did it compare to your college seasons at George Washington in terms of conditioning, the mental grind, and simply playing a lot more?
My first full-season was a blast. I learned an unbelievable amount from my coaches as well as other players from Spring Training through the season. This is the first year I felt like I had some pitches to compete with, as well as a better mindset when I’m out on the mound. When I transitioned into the pitching role I quickly learned it was a lot more than just simply throwing a baseball. It can be challenging but I’m loving every bit of it.
Yeah, the college season wasn’t as long so during the first season of pro ball you kind of learn how your body reacts and recovers from different things and how you need to go about your routines to make sure you are ready to go. Playing everyday from Spring Training through the end of the season is a dream come true but you realize how it can take a toll on your body toward the tail end of the season. That was also about the time when the mental grind came in. You start hearing guys talking about going home and seeing their friends and family, you start thinking about home and what you’re going to do when you get back. That’s when you need to refocus because there’s still a few weeks of the season left, that’s a lot of time. Staying focused on doing everything you can to get better in your work day and competing every pitch in the games helps. Don’t lose sight of the goal.
You had a pretty good year for Bristol pitching to a 3.82 earned run average in 35 innings. Even better was your strong WHIP of 1.25. What led to your first successful season?
“It was a few different things. First off I started throwing a slider that I got pretty comfortable with and I could use that as a weapon in any count to any batter. It was a whole other ball game this year since I was able to do that with my slider. That is one big step forward from last year. Coming out of college and going into pro ball, I didn’t even have an off-speed pitch! Learning that and using it aggressively took my game to a different level than last year but there is so much more to improve on.
Also, the mindset I had on the mound was another thing I improved on from last year, especially the beginning of last year. I tried to just go out there and compete and have believe that whatever I am throwing is the right pitch and have total conviction into each and every pitch. It seemed to me, even if it was the wrong pitch or if I missed my spot… If I threw that pitch with conviction, more often than not it would work out in my favor. Not getting too tied up in the results (which can be difficult at times) and focusing on the process is really what its all about. I know people say it all the time, but really. Just try to improve 1/10th of 1% every single day.”
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Tell me about a player or two who really stood out to you on the Bristol squad this year.
“It was a joy having Adrian Valerio playing behind me at shortstop while I was pitching this year. I have never seen someone so smooth or someone that could pick it as well as Adrian. He’s a special player and he has a special talent. Above all else though, Adrian is a great teammate. I loved playing with him.”
Now that you are a full-fledged relief pitcher, can you share the difference between starting and relieving in professional baseball?
“The biggest difference is that when you are a starting pitcher you know exactly when you are pitching, you can get into a solid routine knowing that you’ll pitch every 5th day. I really did enjoy that. As a relief pitcher you never really know when you are going to pitch or when you are going to pitch in the game, and that can be very tough. That is where the mental game comes in and the extreme focus is needed. Getting your name called and getting told to get “hot” all of a sudden is not something that should be taken lightly. It is tough sometimes. Maybe some days you’re still sore or not feeling the best from your last outing and you have to get out there and pitch when you’re not at your best.”
“You need to learn how to do it and believe in your stuff. This game doesn’t care about feelings, so when you take that into account and come to the reality that the way you feel, or your feelings don’t matter (the game doesn’t care) then you can really go out and perform without using those as excuses or crutches. “
What was the best moment of the year for you?
“I’ve had a lot great moments throughout the year, but I would say the best moment for me this year is when I discovered my slider in extended spring. Pitching Coordinator Scott Mitchell showed me a grip and I let it loose and we both kind of just smiled at each other and that was cool. The grip evolved a bit to make it more consistent, but it gave me a weapon. It gave me a bit more confidence and another pitch that I could attack with.”
Who is your favorite current major league player and favorite Pittsburgh Pirate? Maybe someone you model yourself after, or just enjoy watching play the game.
“There is so much young talent out there that I love to watch. Honestly though I love watching every pitcher. I watch the game differently nowadays, it’s not so much as a fan, but as a student. I like to watch how guys do things, how they throw different pitches, how they get their body to move they way they do. There is just so many things you can pick up and learn from while watching any big league guy. “
“During Spring Training and Extended I got to know Jung Ho, his translator HK, as well as Jared Hughes pretty well. Those guys are open to helping the young guys out and sharing their experiences in baseball. Jung Ho also opened me up to sushi, that was pretty interesting. We tried all these different kinds of sushi before he headed back out to Pittsburgh from his rehab assignment and surprisingly they were really good. So, when I saw him in Pittsburgh when I was out there for the Pirates Community Commitment Award, I told him and HK about how cultured I am in the sushi world now and about all of the different kinds I’ve tried since. Little things like that is what is so awesome about pro ball. Guys are from all over the place and you can take small things from each of them, learn from them, and grow. “
As always thanks to Shane for doing this interview with us here at Rum Bunter. I expect Kemp to start the year at Pittsburgh Pirates affiliate Low-A West Virginia next season. Shane is a developing pitcher who may not be the highest touted player in the system, but keeps improving. He is showing promise and hopefully will continue to perform in 2017. Also, f you have any comments put them below!