Right-hander Adrian Sampson has done everything in his power to stay on the Chicago Cubs roster.
Sampson impressed Sunday by shutting out the Atlanta Braves in 4⅔ innings of relief with five strikeouts, no walks, and only one hitter to reach base. But when the Cubs needed to remove one pitcher from their active roster by Monday’s deadline for the 13-pitter limit, Sampson was left out.
This rule was originally scheduled to go into effect at the start of the season, but has since been delayed twice due to the impact of the 99-day lockout on pitchers’ ability to gain strength.
Manager David Ross described an “extremely difficult” conversation with Sampson when he informed him of the decision to transfer him to Triple-A Iowa. Sampson is unavailable for three days due to working hard on Sunday, which played a role.
“This guy comes out and saves your bullpen, saves the team, lets us reset the bullpen, probably one of the best performances I’ve seen and one of the best performances outside of our bullpen,” Ross said Monday ahead of the series opener against Pittsburgh. Pirates”. “At the moment we can’t afford to be short with no days off.
“So this is a difficult conversation. These are some of the worst I have, especially when not performance based. No matter how it stinks, but he also impressed everyone, and when you go out and do it, the sooner you will return when you are fresh.
The Cubs recalled outfielder Nelson Velasquez to replace Sampson and give them equal shares between pitchers and position players on the 26-man roster. Velasquez is expected to be used as a striker and could start against lefties. Ross said Velasquez’s role would be similar to how Clint Frazier was used when he was on the lineup.
“Right now he’ll come off the bench and be a pinch hitter and an extra outfield body,” Ross said.
This will most likely be another short stint for Velasquez in the majors. David Bote resumed rehab last week after bouts of dizziness put a hold on his return from surgery on his left shoulder. Bothe was on Monday and will play seven to nine innings Tuesday at Iowa.
Seiya Suzuki practices at the team’s compound in Mesa, Arizona while the Cubs head out for seven games. Ross said Suzuki’s tense left ring finger showed less swelling when Ross saw it before they parted ways before the trip to Pittsburgh.
By the end of their four-game streak against the Pirates, the Cubs should have a better idea of how long Frank Schwindel can be sidelined with lower back strain. Schwindel had similar back problems in the spring, so expect the Cubs to take a cautious approach and not force the first baseman back too quickly.
The Cubs can’t seem to catch a break with injuries. As of Monday, they have 13 players on the injured list. The inexperienced rotation will need to intensify after the loss of an extra pitcher, starting with rookie Caleb Kilian, who started on Monday against the Pirates.
“It will be even more important that we find the guys who can get us out of the bullpen and keep us in games or keep us in the lead and give us a few opportunities,” Ross said. “Because you can’t use everyone every day and we have a long season ahead of us and many games in a row. Pitchers, especially bullpen guys, get tired.”
Multi-inning hands have added value for teams that need to cover innings outside of the bullpen. Right-hander Alec Mills knows pitchers like him will become even more important as teams adjust to having one less pitcher on the staff.
“I need to be ready to go every day,” Mills told the Tribune on Monday. “With fewer pitchers, sometimes I need to wear a pair so we can save the bullpen. I think we saw it, especially when I arrived almost two weeks ago, but I had to go there and do it right then. The bullpen was fried, so I was happy to do it.”