Cubs’ Adrian Sampson finds rhythm vs. Giants

Right-hander Adrian Sampson held the Giants to one earned run in 4 1⁄3 innings Saturday at Scottsdale Stadium in Scottsdale, AZ.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Right-hander Adrian Sampson maintained through a spring-training stretch marked by home runs that he wasn’t concerned and just needed to make a couple of adjustments. 

He backed up that sentiment Saturday, holding the Giants to one earned run in 4⅓ innings. 

“I’m trending in the right direction,” he said after he came out of the Cubs’ 5-1 loss. “So still little stuff to clean up, but today was a great outing.”

Sampson had been working on separating his four-seam fastball and sinker. When he missed, he was missing down the middle, leading to hard contact. He allowed eight home runs in his first three spring outings. Against the Giants, he allowed only a single to Bryce Johnson and a double to David Villar, both leading off innings. 

“The sinker into righties was something he really wanted to work on and get going today,” catcher Tucker Barnhart said. “And I think he did a really good job of that. He hammered righties in with fastballs today, and then he was able to pitch up and in to lefties with the fastball, as well. So his goal of finding that separation was very evident today, for sure.” 

Hayden Wesneski and Javier Assad, with strong spring performances, appear to have the advantage over Sampson in the battle for the fifth rotation spot. The two who don’t make the Opening Day rotation are under consideration for a multi-inning bullpen role. The Cubs also need pitchers to stay stretched out in Triple-A as depth.

“I think competition brings out the best in people,” Barnhart said. “And they’re all competitive; they’re all pitching very well. . . . I think all three of those guys that are in a position to be the fifth starter are going to have a major impact for us this year. And they all hopefully know that and don’t get discouraged by whoever isn’t that starter. I’ve just been super-impressed with all three of those guys.”

Camp cuts

The Cubs made their third round of camp cuts, reducing the spring-training roster to 51 players. They optioned reliever Jeremiah Estrada and starter Caleb Kilian to Triple-A Iowa. Three other pitchers — left-handers Bailey Horn and Eric Stout and right-hander Nick Neidert — were reassigned to minor-league camp.

Giants 5, Cubs 1

• Nick Madrigal had two defensive highlights at third base, the first charging in and making a running throw across the diamond and the other ranging to his left. 

• Manager David Ross said before the game that he had been impressed by Edwin Rios and the adjustments he has made in camp. Rios had one of the Cubs’ three hits Saturday.

• Reliever Michael Rucker’s scoreless streak ended at four spring-training games. He allowed two runs in 1¹⁄3 -innings and walked three.

• On deck: Padres at Cubs, 3:05 p.m. Sunday, Mesa, Marquee, 670-AM, Julio Teheran vs. Justin Steele.

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