Spring Training Notebook: Adrian Sampson ready for ‘whatever they ask’, plus how Cubs are watching teammates in WBC
MESA, Ariz. — Much like Hayden Wesneski, Adrian Sampson is just trying to block out the outside noise.
“How I’ve talked about all my outings and bullpens and stuff, it’s all about stuff that I’m working on,” Sampson said Sunday afternoon. “All that other stuff, you can’t control.”
Ultimately, Sampson, Wesneski or Javier Assad — the other person in competition for the 5th rotation spot — aren’t in control of the decisions. They can only control their mindset.
“Luckily for me, I can kinda do whatever that they ask,” Sampson said. “I can come out of the bullpen. I can start. I can do whatever they want. As long as we put ourselves in a good chance to win, that’s the most important thing.”
Sampson allowed a pair of home runs in the 2nd inning on Sunday against Milwaukee, but felt like he battled back well and, most importantly, improved on his mechanics, something he was trying to fix in his first few starts of spring.
“Huge jump,” Sampson said. “Obviously, we saw a couple more homers, but other than that I was really happy with how my stuff was playing today. Throwing a lot off-speed in the zone, got a lot of swings and misses. Me and [catcher] Tucker [Barnhart were] kinda on the same page right off the get go.”
If it were the regular season, Sampson said that was an outing where, had he struggled a bit, he felt good enough to rally back and keep the Cubs in the game.
“In a season game, I would be able to get 6 innings or so out of that one,” Sampson said. “My pitch count was low and keep the guys in the game.”
That poise was demonstrated last season, where he posted a 3.11 ERA over 21 appearances (19 starts) and established him as a key member in the Cubs’ rotation in the second half.
“I’m still gonna have the confidence base and build it off of last year,” Sampson said. “I was talking with [pitching coach] Tommy [Hottovy] with the 4 innings and things just feel so good, I wanted to keep going. I wanted to throw more innings. So, my arm health is great. I’m ready to get competing.”
Adbert Alzolay couldn’t stay off his feet.
The intensity and ambiance of the World Baseball Classic matchup between the Dominican Republic and Venezuela in Miami that he was watching wouldn’t let him relax. It wasn’t a playoff game, but it had the environment and magnitude of an October matchup.
“How can I put this? The atmosphere was very exciting in the game,” the Cubs’ Venezuelan reliver said. “I felt like from the 1st inning until the last, you could feel the pasión — passion — that there was for baseball between both countries. I felt like I was part of the game. I really wanted to be there with the team and participating.”
The rosters from both side made the tussle must-watch TV, too. Up and down, both lineups were littered with All-Stars, award winners and potential future Hall of Famers.
“If you begin to compare both lineups, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic were both very competitive,” Alzolay said.
But he was definitely biased. Although Dominican Republic was one of the pre-tournament favorites to lift the trophy, Alzolay knew Venezuela was no slouch.
Vamos Venezuela 🇻🇪 pic.twitter.com/WNqX4PgJNA— Adbert Alzolay (@adbert29) March 11, 2023
“When you have the batting champion [Miami’s Luis Arráez], José Altuve [and then] Miguel Cabrera didn’t even play, he didn’t have an at-bat,” Alzolay said. “So, that shows the potency of the lineup from the Venezuelan team.”
Alzolay had a special connection to the team beyond it just being his home country. The Venezuelan manager, Omar López, was Alzolay’s manager during the 2017 Arizona Fall League.
On Sunday, though, Alzolay had an extra pep in his step. His country was undefeated in the tournament and had bragging rights over his Dominican teammates.
“I haven’t talked to them yet,” Alzolay said with a laugh. “But honestly, they’re a little quiet today. They’re not rowdy today.”
Stroman dazzles in WBC opener
Speaking of the WBC, David Ross and the Cubs couldn’t help but notice Marcus Stroman was in the zone in Puerto Rico’s opener against Nicaragua on Saturday. The righty pitched 4.2 innings of 1-run ball and induced weak contact after weak contact.
“I saw a couple of his dances on the mound,” Ross said with a smile. “You know he’s feeling sexy when that happens.”
Playoff atmosphere in March. Unreal. Shout to the incredible Puerto Rican fans for bringing all the energy and passion! 🇵🇷 pic.twitter.com/xKIBKsZgVB— Marcus Stroman (@STR0) March 11, 2023
Stroman exchanged texts Saturday night with Ross and Hottovy and shared his excitement. The outing was quintessential Stroman — a lot of sinkers and cutters resulting in 7 groundouts.
“He was really encouraged about what he saw,” Hottovy said. “He didn’t really throw a whole lot of sliders, it was mostly just sinker, cutter, put it on the ground and he did a great job of executing for the most part.”
Stroman stretched out to 65 pitches in the outing, the cap in pitch count for pitchers in pool play, but the Cubs weren’t overly concerned with the amount of work he put in.
“I thought he was in control, it was 65 pitches, but it was very low-stress pitches,” Hottovy said. “He did a great job of staying within himself and not trying to do too much.”
- Cubs prospect Owen Caissie hit a solo home run in Canada’s 18-8 win in 7 innings over Great Britain on Sunday afternoon. The 20-year-old finished 2-for-5 with 3 RBI in Canada’s opener. Cubs minor leaguer Jared Young was 0-for-3 with 3 walks and an RBI. Prospect B.J. Murray was 1-for-2 with 2 walks for Great Britain.
- Miles Mastrobuoni and Ben DeLuzio (Italy) and Roenis Elías (Cuba) all advanced to the quarterfinals with their respective teams. All 5 teams in Pool A finished 2-2, so Cuba finished first in the group on a tiebreaker, with Italy finishing second. Italy will play Japan in the quarters, with Cuba’s opponent yet to be determined against either Australia, South Korea or the Czech Republic.
- Matt Mervis was 1-for-3 with a walk in Israel’s 3-1 win over Nicaragua in their opener in Miami.
The Cubs are off Monday and will host the Rockies Tuesday night for a night matchup at 8:05 p.m. Justin Steele is scheduled to start the game.