Minor league report: Sampson learns from tough Single-A season

Altoona Curve pitcher Adrian Sampson in 2014
Altoona Curve pitcher Adrian Sampson in 2014
Photo by Kevin Pataky Photography
Bob Cohn
| Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014, 9:42 p.m.

Pitching in Bradenton last season was more like going to school for Adrian Sampson. He had a difficult curriculum and a demanding teacher, and he struggled at times. But he paid attention.

After starting slowly in 2013, the right-hander went 5-8 with a 5.81 ERA in Single-A while learning the changeup and tweaking the angle on his fastball.

Going into Saturday's outing for Double-A Altoona, Sampson was 9-5 with a 2.69 ERA.

“No one had ever taught me to throw a changeup,” he said. “Once I got to pro ball, it was like the first thing they taught me. I experimented with different grips, when to throw it, how to throw it.

“I was just kind of taking the whole year as a class. It was tough. It was dramatic having to learn it so fast, but I spent a lot of time with it, and I was really committed.”

Sampson, a 2012 fifth-round pick out of Bellevue (Wash.) Community College, said he never grew overly frustrated. Pitching, he said, is more than numbers.

“There's a lot of stuff behind the scenes people on the outside don't know about,” he said. “The internal things they look at, the process they drill into you. They look at the plane on the fastball, composure, your ability to repeat pitches. So many things you don't see from the outside.”

Sampson praised Justin Meccage, his pitching coach at State College in 2012 and Bradenton last season.

“It was the most help I've ever gotten in my professional career,” he said. “On and off the field. He's a guy I can call all the time and talk baseball with. He's a competitor. He drives his pitchers.”

Two weeks ago, Sampson came within two outs of a no-hitter against Bowie but ended up with a shutout and his second complete game of the season.

He said he noticed something special going on around the sixth inning.

“It just started hitting me,” he said. “ ‘Maybe I could throw a no-hitter today.' I started getting nervous. I got through the seventh and had a really quick eighth inning and walked off field and went, ‘Oh my God, three outs (to go).' I tried not to smile, but I was really happy.”

With one out in the top of the ninth, Mike Yastrzemski, grandson of Red Sox Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski, spoiled what would have been the first solo no-hitter in Curve history by golfing a slider, low and away, down the left-field line for an opposite-field double.

Sampson said catcher Elias Diaz called for a fastball up because Yastrzemski had just swung and missed on a slider in the dirt.

“I threw the pitch I wanted,” Sampson said. “I threw it very close to where I wanted, and he had a good piece of hitting.”

Bob Cohn is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at bcohn@tribweb.com.

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