At the beginning of the year I, and everybody else, thought the bullpen was the #1 strength of the Astros' team. Not so much, it turns out.
Sampson gave up five runs in two innings over his first two outings in Round Rock this month, giving the Astros reason to wonder if they will call him back when rosters expand Sept 1. Righthander Geoff Geary, another top bullpen arm last season, struggled early and landed in Round Rock, where he held a 1-3 record and 5.06 ERA heading into Monday night.
“Those two scenarios are probably a little bit different,” Cecil Cooper said of Sampson and Geary. “We need Chris to be pitching really good. He's struggled, I think, the two outings he's had (at Round Rock). He's gone one inning the first time and gave up a couple runs. Didn't throw very well, and the last time he didn't throw very well. From listening to the reports, it doesn't sound like the ball is coming out better than when he was here. Geary is throwing better, but not as good as we've seen.”
Sampson's ERA by month:
“I think it's just a case of getting the sinker working again and pitching at the knees like he did the first half here. He was a very valuable member of our bullpen the first half of the season...
...Chris has been a guy that's always battled injuries coming off, you know, his whole history being an infielder and sitting out for four years and coming back as a pitcher, and each year he's had his ups and downs physically. And last year was the same thing. As a starter he battled injuries and things like that, so it's kind of expected again this year.
Being here now the two years, the workload on a reliever is just incredible, just a 162-game season and these guys are available probably two-thirds of the time. Whether they get in the game or not or get up, it takes its toll. I think if you look at careers of these guys, the guys that have been around for a long time, you see a lot of peaks and valleys over year to year. I think a lot of it can be based on health and the workload they get."
I'll say this again, but there is absolutely no reason for Sampson to be pitching right now. Shut him down, and let him come back in 2010. It's not like the Express are fighting for a playoff spot, so let him rest and see what he has in 2010. If he comes back in 2010 and is leaking runs like a sieve, then that's that. If he comes back and is early 2009 Chris Sampson, then this is on Cecil Cooper for continuing to run him out there. Sampson is still third on the team in appearances, with 49. That's absurd. Only Byrdak (55), and LaHawk (50) have more appearances, and only Fulchino has more IPs for a full-time reliever than Sampson. Still.