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Inside The Cubs
Cubs Veteran Willing to 'Do Whatever' to Make Opening Day Roster
By Ryan Sikes,
Adrian Sampson is in contention for the fifth starter spot, but he's willing to fill whatever role the Chicago Cubs ask of him if it means making the Opening Day roster.
Halfway through Spring Training, the Chicago Cubs ' fifth starter competition is a two-man race, with one way ahead of the other.
Hayden Wesneski has yet to give up a run in the exhibition schedule, and Javier Assad has impressed for Team Mexico at the World Baseball Classic.
And then there's Adrian Sampson.
It's been a rough spring for the 31-year-old, spinning a 14.04 ERA in three appearances, including two starts. He's surrendered an MLB-leading eight home runs to go along with a .351 average.
It's hard to ignore Sampson's body of work last year with the team when he made 21 appearances, including 19 starts, tossing a 3.11 ERA.
But the Cubs' front-four starting pitchers appear to be set. Going into MLB Spring Training, we knew a spot would be open until Kyle Hendricks is ready to rejoin the rotation. Wesneski has taken the opportunity and ran with it.
Where does that leave Sampson?
Working on new pitches, grips, or struggling with the dry Arizona air - whatever the issue - he hasn't instilled much confidence to be considered for the rotation.
Regardless of where he begins the season, Sampson's mindset since coming into camp has been to help the team wherever needed.
“Luckily for me, I can kinda do whatever that they ask,” he said via Marquee Sports Network . “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.”
As a career swingman, pitching from the bullpen is not a foreign concept for Sampson. In 29 career appearances in a relief role, he has a 4.36 ERA, fanning 50 batters in 64.0 innings of work.
Finding a role in the bullpen could be a challenge as well.
Cubs manager David Ross said at the start of camp that Adbert Alzolay and Keegan Thompson would be pitching in relief roles this year. The North Siders brought in Michael Fulmer and Brad Boxberger to shore up the back end. Brandon Hughes is currently the only left-handed reliever. Rowan Wick has struggled but has also shown potential at times. Julian Merryweather is out of minor league options after being claimed off waivers.
The reality is that there could be one or two spots up for grabs, depending on how many players the Cubs will carry on the bench.
Sampson will need to right the ship in the second half of Spring Training even to be considered for the Opening Day roster, or he could find himself on the outside looking in.