Hampson a valuable part of Padres 'pen
Left-hander's more aggressive approach paying off
SAN FRANCISCO -- Justin Hampson doesn't have to ponder how long it's been since he last pitched, nor does the Padres left-handed relief pitcher have to concern himself about when he'll throw next.
Yes, things can change quickly and no one knows this more than Hampson, who has been up and down between San Diego and Triple-A Portland the last two seasons more than he cares to count.
From the looks of it, Hampson isn't going anywhere, not with the way he's been pitching recently. Going into Saturday's game against the Giants, Hampson had not allowed a run in his last 13 appearances, covering 13 1/3 innings.
Hampson credits part of his recent success with a more aggressive approach, going after opposing hitters from the get-go instead of trying to be too fine with his stuff as he goes after hitters.
This is hardly revolutionary thinking, Hampson admits, though it's something that is easier said than done, especially when you come into a tight game, sometimes with runners on base.
"I definitely think that getting that first strike on a hitter puts you in so much of a better position, regardless of the pitch," Hampson said. "Being 0-1 instead of 1-0 gives you a lot more options. I don't want to be too fine. I never let them get too much into a hitter's count."
Hampson has walked six batters in 20 innings, but just four over his last 14 appearances. Like he did last season when he saved the Padres' bullpen on occasion with long relief outings, Hampson has shown the ability to pitch in long relief or as a situational left-hander.
Hampson pitched a season-high three innings in a 16-7 victory over the Rockies on Aug. 10 after Chris Young couldn't make it through five innings. Hampson got the victory and stemmed the flow of runs by the Rockies in that game as he didn't allow a run in relief.
Hampson credits confidence in his breaking ball as another reason for his success. It's a pitch that he won't use often, but it's one that is useful enough to give opposing batters a little something to think about.
"My breaking ball is a lot better now than it was earlier in the year. It's not my strikeout pitch. It's not going to make a guy look foolish, but it puts it in his head. I can try to make him foul it off," he said. "That's helped me a lot."
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.