After posting a 2.55 ERA in 24 starts with Altoona this season, Adrian Sampson earned a promotion to Triple-A Indianapolis to get in some work and experience before the season ends.
While the first start did not go as planned for Sampson, as he allowed 10 hits and 6 runs in 3.2 innings, his second start looked much better. On Wednesday, Sampson went seven innings, allowing two runs on six hits, while striking out three. With this success, he looks for big things at the new level over the rest of the season. As for carrying over the success, Sampson is looking to continue the recipe that has brought him here.
“[The success is from] being consistent with the fastball down with a good plane on it,” Sampson said. “I have been throwing my other pitches, my changeup and my slider for strikes. It is being overall consistent with those things.”
In 148 innings with Altoona, Sampson had a K/BB ratio of 99:30. In addition, on July 18, Sampson tossed a one-hit complete game shutout and had a no-hitter broke up in the ninth inning.
Sampson knows that a key to his success fits well with an emphasis that the organization places on young pitchers – a fearless ability to work inside.
“Pitching inside is big in the whole organization, and it’s big for myself as well,” Sampson said. “When I don’t do well, I don’t pitch inside enough. This last outing, I pitched inside a lot, but I couldn’t get to the fastball outside.”
While Sampson has never had any issues getting inside to right-handed hitters, working inside to left-handed hitters this season has been his main focus.
“I have no problem getting inside to righties,” Sampson said. “Lefties are what I have been working on this year, getting in on them.”
Along with getting the ball inside to lefties, Sampson said that throwing more changeups to right-handed hitters has been an emphasis this season. In the past, he has worked the changeup primarily to left-handed hitters for swinging strikes and ground balls. In working this into the arsenal, he has gotten the advice of some teammates in Altoona this season.
“I have talked to a lot of hitters in Altoona – Stetson Allie, Keon Broxton,” Sampson said. “That is the hardest pitch because it is coming right at them and drops off. From what I have heard from them, that is probably the most effective pitch to righties.”
The work on his craft has shown for Sampson this season, as he has seen a huge bounce back after a tough 2013 campaign. Sampson posted a 5.14 ERA with Bradenton last season. In 140 innings, he allowed 177 hits and 87 runs, while only striking out 85. As far as his approach, he said that keeping the ball down and locating all of his pitches are the key to his success in 2014.
“I start with fastballs away to make sure that I am on time, getting the ball down and away,” Sampson said. “I can get the ball inside to righties easy, it is just the natural arm path that I have. I try to locate down enough and work on the changeup on both sides of the plate. I try to get the curveball down and for strikes. I try to get comfortable with every pitch.”
Along with getting the experience at Triple-A to prepare better for next season, Sampson is also pleased to work with Indianapolis pitching coach Tom Filer.
“I am just wanting to locate the ball down,” Sampson said. “If I can throw quality pitches, I can get a lot of these guys out. Tom Filer has been helping me out a lot over these last few days. He saw me maybe once in Spring Training, so it is nice to have a new set of eyes on you. I am just fine tuning what I did in Altoona and bringing it to here to get more comfortable for next year.”
Sampson is taking the traditional route for Pirates pitching prospects, with the exception of Gerrit Cole. The organization tends to have pitchers throw around 150 innings at the Double-A level, promoting them late in the season to get a taste of the next level. With this in mind, Sampson will start the 2015 season in the Indianapolis rotation and if the success from 2014 carries over, he will be a candidate for a mid-season call up to Pittsburgh if needed. Sampson is 22 years old and is only in his third professional season, so he is well ahead of the curve. He’s got the chance to be a sleeper middle of the rotation starter, capable of tossing 200 innings per year.