Hampson trying to break out of funk
Reliever has struggled this year after stellar '07 season
SAN DIEGO -- Padres' reliever Justin Hampson has been struggling. And Saturday's one-batter, one-homer-allowed outing did nothing to stop the bleeding.
"Last night is over and you can't change what happened," Hampson said. "So I woke up today, came here and tried to get ready to go. Try to do whatever I can do to get an out, put a zero on the board and help the team win a game."
After giving up a home run in the top of the seventh inning to the Tigers' Marcus Thames, Hampson continues to learn the hard way about how relievers have to conduct themselves.
It is a job many take for granted. Relievers are asked to come in and throw strikes, forced to catch a groove as soon as their foot touches the mound.
"When I did start in the Minor Leagues, I had the approach that I wanted to get everybody out so I don't look at it much differently," Hampson said. "Maybe coming out of the bullpen, you're throwing everything at the guy right away. You start firing everything you've got. That might be the biggest difference as far as approaching the hitter, I think."
Hampson is 0-1 in eight appearances with a 9.45 ERA in 6 2/3 innings. Last season, Hampson was 2-3 with a 2.70 ERA in 39 outings. According to manager Bud Black, Hampson has struggled with executing his pitches on a consistent basis.
"With any good relief pitcher, they string together pitches over their outing, and next time they're up there, they do it again," Black said.
Hampson understands that he's in a bit of a funk. Neither he nor Black believe that the reliever is pitching up to his potential.
"We haven't seen the consistency we expect out of Justin," Black said.
Getting in a funk is probably harder than getting out of it. But all relief pitchers have to develop a short memory. The ability to forget the last run they gave up or last appearance when they struggled. Hampson just has to take it one appearance at a time.
"Obviously, I haven't been pitching as well as I had hoped to be pitching," Hampson said. "I've had a couple of rough ones. You just can't linger on it and just wait for it to turn the corner. It's a long season, and that's the way it goes sometimes. You get into a little rut. I'm trying to dig myself out of a hole right now. But we'll get it turned around and hopefully it'll be smooth sailing from then on."
Ronald Clark is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.