Cubs’ Adrian Sampson ‘rewarded’ for bounce back after being DFA’d twice

ST. LOUIS – When Adrian Sampson joined the Cubs on this two-city road trip, manager David Ross made sure to say, I told you so.

He didn’t lead with that, first asking about Sampson’s early flight into Pittsburgh on Thursday. But after those niceties, Ross added with a smile: “​​I told you you’d be here.”

On Saturday, Sampson made his first major league start of the season, in a whirlwind year for the right-hander, as the Cubs fell to the Cardinals 5-3 at Busch Stadium. He held the Cardinals to two runs through five innings.

Both those runs came in the first inning, as Sampson gave up three straight base hits, two of which were bloopers that dropped into left field.

“Every time I’m out there, I want them to know I belong here,” Sampson said after the game. “And that’s the biggest thing. Everybody in this room belongs in the big leagues, there’s even guys that aren’t here that belong here. But once you get an opportunity, you’ve just got to show them your best stuff every time, don’t take anything for granted.”

He has the Cubs’ attention.

“I thought he threw the ball really well, got a nice rhythm there,” Ross said after the game. “Really nice performance.”

Sampson had earned the start after holding the Braves to one hitthrough 4 ⅔ scoreless innings of relief less than a week ago.The next day, the Cubs had to trim the number of pitchers on their roster from 14 to 13, as a new roster limit went into effect. The Cubs optioned Sampson to Triple-A.

“I know I’ll see you back real soon,” Ross said as he delivered the news, in what he described as an “extremely difficult” conversation.

Sampson was upset.

“I think I handled it, not the best,” Sampson said. “But I thought I told him what I wanted to tell him. You’ve got to be careful when things like that happen because you say the wrong thing, and it deters people from wanting to keep you around. So, I tried to be precise with my words and let them know that I was not happy with their decision.”

He did understand the calculation theywere making.

That back-and-forth barely begins to describe Sampson’s year.

Sampson began the season in the Cubs organization, but they designated him for assignment on May 10, and Seattle claimed him off waivers. He never appeared for the Mariners, who cut him eight days later, putting Sampson in, as Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy put it, “DFA limbo.”

When he cleared waivers, Sampson elected free agency instead of an outright assignment to the Mariners’ Triple-A affiliate.The Cubs signed Sampson to a minor-league contract on May 31. He hadn’t pitched in a game in over three weeks.

“For him to take that all in stride, it’s just a testament to who he is and his work ethic,” Hottovy said in a conversation with the Sun-Times. “And he’s being rewarded for handling things the right way.”

Sampson said the down time was more of a mental hurdle than physical, and one he was prepared for.

“It was a wild ride for a little bit,” he said. “But then once I got back on the mound, I was able to just go about my business and maintain the momentum I had before all the DFAs and all that kind of stuff. But it was exciting to get a start again.”

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