Cubs option Adrian Sampson to trim roster to 13-pitcher limit, recall Nelson Vel?zquez

PITTSBURGH – The Cubs made good use of the extra roster flexibility Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association granted at the start of the season. It helped them weather a spike of injuries, which has hit their rotation especially hard lately.

On Monday, however, the 13-pitcher roster limit went into effect. The Cubs optioned right-hander Adrian Sampson to Triple-A Iowa to comply, and they recalled outfielder Nelson Vel?zquez.

Sampson threw 4 2/3 shutout innings against the Braves on Sunday, after Kyle Hendricks’ short start in a 6-0 loss.

“The conversation with Sampson was extremely difficult,” Cubs manager Davis Ross said Monday. “The guy goes out there and saves your bullpen, saves the team, allows us to reset that bullpen with probably one the better performances I’ve seen him have and one of the better performances out of our bullpen.

“But he’s probably down for three days, can’t use him. And we’re cutting down a pitcher. So at this moment in time, we cannot afford to be short with no off days coming up.”

The Cubs are in the middle of a stretch of 17 games without a break on the schedule. Their next off day is set for next Monday.

To address injury concerns coming out of a short spring training, MLB and the players association agreed to expand rosters for the first month of the season and twice pushed back the implementation of the 13-pitcher limit.

The Cubs still have three starting pitchers on the 15-day IL with soft tissue injuries: right-hander Marcus Stroman (right shoulder inflammation) and lefties Drew Smyly (right oblique strain) and Wade Miley (left shoulder strain).

“The thing about going down to 13 pitchers is we need six, seven innings out of [our starters],” Ross said. “Go a little bit deeper so you don’t have to go down [to the bullpen for] four or five guys. The more the starters can give us length, the better off we’re going to be.”

Ross expects to use Vel?zquez to exploit matchups. Since the Cubs designated Clint Frazier for assignment a little over a week ago – he’s since cleared waivers and accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A – and with Seiya Suzuki on the IL, the Cubs haven’t had a go-to right-handed bat in right field.

“He’ll probably make sense some against lefties, pinch hit,” Ross said. “Kind of the role that Frazier had while he was here.”

Vel?zquez, though better known for his power, hit a single in each game he played against the Brewers last month, when he made his MLB debut.

“During those three or four days,” Vel?zquez said of his first call-up, “I just talked with the guys, like [Jason] Heyward and [Willson] Contreras, and asked them what they do, or what they try to feel when they’re hitting. And they explained to me, ‘The most important thing to hit is, be on time. If you’re on time, you’ll be able to adjust your swing, no matter what pitch it is.'”

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