Sampson's versatility gives Rangers options

Righty has split time between rotation, bullpen this season; Pence could return Tuesday

July 14th, 2019

ARLINGTON -- How the Rangers view right-handed pitcher may determine their approach to the July 31 Trade Deadline.

The Rangers could use help both in the rotation and the bullpen to stay in contention for a Wild Card spot. Sampson has had success in both roles, and manager Chris Woodward was impressed with how he handled two relief appearances lately against the Astros.

If the Rangers land another starter at the Deadline, either Sampson or Jesse Chavez could easily slide back to the bullpen.

Sampson is being used out of the bullpen temporarily because the Rangers don’t need a fifth starter until July 23. He pitched a scoreless inning on Friday and came back for 2 2/3 scoreless on Saturday night.

Sampson entered a 4-4 game on Saturday with one out in the sixth, the bases loaded and the Astros' top of the order up. Sampson got George Springer to hit a double-play grounder, but third baseman Logan Forsythe couldn’t handle a tough hop for an error.

A run scored but Sampson came back to strike out both Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman to keep it a one-run game. He followed that up with two scoreless innings as the Rangers tied it up on a Delino DeShields home run before losing in 11 innings.

“To see what Sampson did yesterday was about as fired up as I have been,” Woodward said. “A pitcher pitching back-to-back days, who was a starter ... we put him in the bullpen because he could get through situations like he did yesterday. Gave us three innings with a chance to win the game. I can’t speak enough of what he did yesterday. I was pretty fired up about that. I’ll remember that for a long time.

“I know he has done a good job as a starter but what he did yesterday is what I envisioned when I put him in the bullpen. Not because I didn’t think he could start but if he could do that, it gives us a chance against a team like Houston to win a game like yesterday.”

Sampson is 3-5 with a 5.89 ERA and a 1.55 WHIP in 12 starts and 3-1 with a 1.91 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in nine relief appearances. However, three of those relief appearances came when the Rangers used an opener in front of him. He was 3-0 with a 2.87 ERA and a 1.34 WHIP in those games.

“He pitched really well as a bullpen guy as a starter because we used an opener,” Woodward said. “He’s good in either role, but he’s really good out of the bullpen in the role he had yesterday. Multiple innings -- it’s almost like a right-handed Andrew Miller the way he goes out and competes. He does that as a starter, but everybody’s stuff plays up a little bit when you only have to go 1-2 innings as opposed to 5-6.”

Rangers reschedule Angels game

The Rangers have announced they will play a split doubleheader against the Angels on Tuesday, Aug. 20. That doubleheader is to make up the July 1 game that was postponed due to the tragic death of Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs.

The first game will start at 1:05 p.m. CT and the regularly scheduled game is still set for 7:05 p.m. CT that night. Tickets for the July 1 game may be used for the earlier game. Tickets may also be exchanged for a future game on the Rangers’ 2019 home schedule with the exception of Sept. 27, 28, and 29 versus the New York Yankees at the Globe Life Park first-base box office.

Rangers beat

• Outfielder Bubba Thompson, the Rangers' No. 1 pick from 2017, has been activated off the injured list at Class A Advanced Down East. He had surgery in April after fracturing the hamate bone in his left hand and has played in just 16 games this season.

• Woodward said all went well with Hunter Pence in his third rehab game with Double-A Frisco on Saturday night. Pence, who is sidelined with a strained right groin muscle, was 1-for-4 at the plate. He is scheduled to play for Frisco again on Sunday night and possibly be activated on Tuesday against Arizona.

• Catcher Isiah Kiner-Falefa, on the injured list with a strained middle finger on his right hand, was 1-for-3 for Frisco on Saturday and is hitting .276 (8-for-29) with four doubles in nine games combined between there and Triple-A Nashville. The Rangers have not decided when he will be activated.