CINCINNATI -- Late Tuesday night, Reds reliever J.J. Hoover endured another rough outing in a 7-2 loss to the Cubs. A few hours later on Wednesday morning, Hoover was optioned to Triple-A Louisville while pitcher Keyvius Sampson was recalled.Sampson was needed in Wednesday's 9-2 loss to the Cubs when starter
CINCINNATI -- Late Tuesday night, Reds reliever J.J. Hoover endured another rough outing in a 7-2 loss to the Cubs. A few hours later on Wednesday morning, Hoover was optioned to Triple-A Louisville while pitcher Keyvius Sampson was recalled.
Sampson was needed in Wednesday's 9-2 loss to the Cubs when starter Cody Reed lasted just four innings. Sampson tossed 2 2/3 innings, allowing two runs (one earned), three hits and four walks (one intentional) while striking out three.
Hoover made six appearances since his June 14 recall. His last three outings have only added to some rough numbers this season (13.50 ERA over 18 games) as he's allowed 11 earned runs, seven hits, four walks and three home runs over three innings. That included five runs in the top of the 15th inning Tuesday, capped by Javier Baez's grand slam. It unraveled what would have been a triumphant night for the bullpen, which had worked eight scoreless and hitless innings before he took over.
Reds manager Bryan Price felt that Hoover's pitching problems could be fixed.
"The talent doesn't just go away. He's not broken, he's not a guy coming off of surgery and doesn't have any velocity or stuff," Price said. "He has a very live, jumping fastball and that hasn't really shown up yet in the first half. He hasn't really been locked in mechanically where he's comfortable and just going out there and making pitches. He still has the ability to do that, and we're hoping he'll find it here in Louisville and come back and give us a little boost in the second half. [In] '13, it was really good, '14 was a struggle and '15 was really good and '16 is a struggle -- I don't want to wait until '17."
This is Sampson's third time in the big leagues this season. He has a 6.52 ERA over his five appearances for the Reds. Like Hoover did, Sampson has been posting some nice numbers at Louisville to earn another opportunity.
Sampson had a 2.06 ERA in 14 games, including nine starts, at Triple-A. He allowed one hit over six scoreless innings in his last start vs. Rochester on Friday.
"Before I left, [bullpen coach] Mack Jenkins told me my direction to the plate -- he wanted to make it more to the plate instead of throwing across my body so much," Sampson said. "And then [Louisville manager] Delino DeShields had showed me a little something as far as holding the rubber a little longer on my offspeed stuff. It's been helping me with that. Putting those two things together has kind of got me to control a little bit better and command my fastball better."
The Reds are hoping that Sampson can take what he's done in Triple-A and find success in the Major Leagues.
"His nemesis at this level has been low overall strike percentage and low first-pitch strike percentage," Price said. "And that isn't a challenge for him in Triple-A. He gets ahead of hitters, he stays ahead of hitters. The base on balls hasn't been a terrible problem for him in Louisville. Controlling the count and commanding his stuff, we get great reports on Keyvius. ... Now you've kind of got to cross that bridge to being able to perform at this level in a similar fashion."
Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Read his blog, Mark My Word, follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.