BOSTON — That right-hander Adrian Sampson got the call Saturday when the Mariners needed a replacement for injured Wade Miley speaks to his development this season at Triple-A Tacoma.
Sampson, 24, was fourth in line when the season began as the Mariners set Tacoma’s rotation to ensure either James Paxton, Joe Wieland and Donn Roach would always be rested and available for an emergency call-up.
The first summons, when a calf injury sidelined Felix Hernandez, went to Paxton, but the Mariners turned to Sampson when they determined Miley’s sore shoulder required time on the disabled list.
"He was probably the most consistent starter we’ve had down there," manager Scott Servais said. The reports (say) his fastball command has been very good. His pitchability is good. He can move the ball around the strike zone."
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Sampson made his major-league debut Saturday in a 6-2 loss to Boston at Fenway Park — and results were mixed. He opened with three scoreless innings but got tagged for four runs before exiting with two outs in the fifth inning.
"I look forward to his next one," Servais said. "I think he’ll be much more under control. There were probably more pitches up today than you normally see out of him. He works at the bottom of the strike zone and elevates late."
Sampson admitted he had butterflies prior to the game.
"For sure," he said. "Just walking around in the outfield warming up, it was very special. I had a lot of family and friends here. I saw them early. But as soon as I was in the bullpen getting ready to warm up, I just locked in."
Sampson went 7-4 with a 3.25 ERA at Tacoma with nine quality starts in 13 outings for the Rainiers. Tellingly, he’s controlled the strike zone: Just 12 walks in 80 1/3 innings and never more than two in any game.
"He has climbed the depth chart, so to speak," Servais said. "He put himself here. He earned it, a chance to come up here and contribute and help us out.
"Obviously, we’ve put an extreme emphasis on all of our minor-league players to control the zone, pitching or hitting, and it pays off."
This figures to be no more than a two-start audition for Sampson because Miley is expected to rejoin the rotation June 28 when eligible to be activated from the disabled list.
Current rotation plans put Sampson in line for a June 23 start at Detroit. He, too, expects to be more relaxed
"Just the routine of being here for five days (will help)," he said. "Getting all of my stuff done and getting used to the travel, it will be a lot easier. Getting on the same page with the catchers (will also help)."
Sampson is a Redmond native who graduated from Skyline High School in Sammamish and Bellevue College before getting drafted by Pittsburgh in the fifth round of the 2012 draft.
The Mariners acquired him last season just prior to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline in a trade for veteran left-hander J.A. Happ. Sampson is the 36th player born or raised in Washington to play for the Mariners.
Sampson’s numbers in the Pirates’ system didn’t dazzle — he was 24-23 with a 4.39 ERA in 85 games over three-plus years — but the Mariners saw upside potential.
"A big hard sinker," then-general manager Jack Zduriencik said, "and really solid makeup kid. Really good intangibles."
And now a shot in the big leagues.
The Mariners cleared space for Sampson by optioning lefty reliever David Rollins back to Tacoma just one day — and one appearance — after recalling him to the big-league club.
Rollins pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings in Friday’s 8-4 victory over the Red Sox.
"He certainly showed well for himself," Servais said. "As you’re scouring and looking around for bullpen depth, it nice to see the guys in your own organization come up and contribute. `That’s a guy. We can count on him.’
"He’s earned that right. It won’t be the last time you see him up here this year."
The Mariners recalled Rollins and right-hander Jonathan Aro from Tacoma prior to Friday’s game after placing Miley on the disabled list and designating reliever Steve Johnson for assignment.
The opted to keep Aro because he was a fresh arm in a bullpen still recovering from 15 innings of work earlier this week in three games at Tampa Bay.
WALKER: NO CONCERNS
Right-hander Taijuan Walker insists he’ll be fine Sunday for his start in the series finale against the Red Sox. He has "no concerns" regarding the foot injury that forced him to exit his start Tuesday at Tampa Bay after just 3 2/3 innings.
"It feels good," he said. "I threw off the mound (Friday), 10 pitches, and it felt good. No pain. A little sore, but I’ll be good for (Sunday)."
Servais is more cautious.
"There are (concerns)," he admitted. "A little bit. He says it feels better. But we’ll see. It’s kind of in the back of your mind that we may need someone who can carry a little extra length (on Sunday) if it does start barking on him again."
Walker left his last start because of inflammation in the tendon that attaches the calf muscle to the bones on the inside of the right foot. He and trainer Rick Griffin believe the problem can be minimized by fully taping the ankle.
"It helps a lot," Walker said. "It keeps it stable, especially when I have to cover first base or make any moves off the mound."
With Rollins returning to Tacoma — "basically when the dust settles" in Servais’ words — the Mariners’ bullpen tweak amounts to adding Jonathan Aro in place of Steve Johnson.
Servias pointed to Aro’s ability to work multiple innings as a key advantage, but Aro, 25, also offers greater long-term upside potential.
"He’s younger, and he’s a guy we acquired in a trade," Servais said. "I saw him pitch in winter ball. Then I saw him pitch in spring training, and it wasn’t the same guy. I think we got him back on track."
Aro was 2-2 with a 2.45 ERA in 22 appearances at Tacoma. Four the nine earned runs he allowed in 33 innings came in one outing — a disastrous one-third of an inning June 4 at Las Vegas.
The Mariners acquired Aro with Wade Miley from Boston in a Dec. 7, 2015 trade for Carson Smith and Roenis Elias. Aro made his major-league debut last season by making six appearances for the Red Sox.
Servais said the Mariners would like to retain Johnson if he clears waivers.
Sampson is, effectively, what the Mariners have to show for trading outfielder Michael Saunders to Toronto.
Saunders is finally healthy and enjoying a breakout year. He hit three homers and drove in eight runs Friday in the Blue Jays’ 13-3 victory at Baltimore. He carried a .314 average into Saturday with 15 homers and 32 RBIs in 61 games.
The Mariners traded Saunders to Toronto on Dec. 3, 2014 for left-handed pitcher J.A. Happ. On July 31, 2015, they traded Happ to Pittsburgh for Sampson.
When Happ became a free agent after last season, he returned to Toronto by signing a three-year deal for $36 million. Saunders is making $2.9 million this year and will be a free agent after the season.
Hi-A Bakersfield right-hander Tyler Herb leads the California League with 86 strikeouts after getting 10 in six innings Friday in a 12-5 victory at Lancaster (Astros).
Herb, 24, was a 29th-round draft pick in 2014. He is 7-2 with a 3.10 ERA in 14 starts for the Blaze and was recently picked to the Cal League All-Star team, which will play the Carolina League all-stars on Wednesday in Lake Elsinore, Calif.
First baseman Kyle Petty was also picked to the Cal League team. He went 3-for-5 with two homers and five RBIs in Friday’s victory. Petty, 25, is batting a league-leading .335 with 10 homers and 42 RBIs in 64 games.
It was seven years ago Sunday — June 19, 2009 — that Franklin Gutierrez had the first multi-homer game of his career. It came in a 4-3 loss at San Diego.
Since then, Gutierrez has produced two more two-homer games, and both came at Fenway Park — including Friday, when he had a career-high six RBIs in an 8-4 victory over the Red Sox.
The Mariners and Red Sox conclude their three-game weekend series at 10:35 a.m. Pacific time Sunday at Fenway Park. Right-hander Taijuan Walker (3-6 with a 3.69 ERA) will face Boston lefty David Price (7-4, 4.52).
The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on 710 ESPN.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners