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TinCaps pitcher seeks to prove himself

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First pitch: Lake County at Fort Wayne, 11:05 a.m. today

Probable starters: FW/RH Zach Cates (0-1) vs. LC/RH Steven Wright (0-0)

Radio: ESPN 1380-AM

TV: Comcast Channel 82

Sampson must show talent, ability to stay healthy.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011 - 10:15 am

Fort Wayne TinCaps starting pitcher Keyvius Sampson does not mince words when it comes to the importance of this season to his professional career.

“This is a really big, big, big year for me,” Sampson said. “A lot of people thought I was a bust ... because it was injury after injury, so this off-season I made sure to work … to make sure I was in shape.”

After being shut down in August due to a partial tear of the labrum in his right shoulder, the 20-year-old right-hander is hoping to prove he has the talent and, more importantly, the ability to stay healthy over a full season.

Sampson continued to show Tuesday that last year is a distant memory, going five shutout innings and striking out seven in a 5-4 TinCaps victory over Lake County at Parkview Field.

Sampson improves to 3-1 this season and saw his ERA drop to 1.28 while Fort Wayne goes to 8-11 overall.

“I saw (Sampson) all last year (at short-season Eugene); he knows he has good stuff,” TinCaps manager Shawn Wooten said.

“He knows he has good stuff; he has two pitches he can throw at any time for strikes (and a) third pitch, his breaking ball, that can keep guys off balance.”

Selected in the fourth round of the 2009 Amateur Draft by the Padres, Sampson is expected to develop in the system over the next few seasons. If his first four starts this year are any indication, he may be ahead of schedule.

“It's fun to watch him go out there and pitch, especially a young guy that knows he has some good stuff,” Wooten said.

Sampson did not give up a run in his first two starts before giving up three runs over five innings last week against West Michigan.

Despite having some bouts of wildness Tuesday when he walked four, he appeared to be back in form.

There was a slight scare in the second inning when Fort Wayne coaches visited Sampson at the mound. After a short talk and several warm-up pitches, it was decided Sampson was OK to continue.

“It was just a little mix-up,” Sampson said of the conference. “My back was a little tight and (the coaches) thought something was wrong, but everything was good. Them coming out helped me calm down a bit (because) I was rushing my delivery.”

Sampson struck out the next batter on three straight pitches.

“We want to make sure at this stage that they are OK,” said Wooten about his players. “(Sampson) has such an upside ... we would rather be safe than sorry, especially with a guy with an arm like he has.”

Sampson is just happy he is not a daily visitor to the training table and hopes that continues all season.

“Being injured, your mentality starts to wear down and you lose confidence in yourself,” Sampson said. “I want to make sure I finish (the season) strong and finish the whole year healthy.

“That's really the big key – finishing healthy.”