Notes: Sampson amped up for Yanks

Notes: Sampson amped up for Yanks

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- With less than two weeks remaining in the Florida version of the exhibition season, it's probably time for those vying for spots in the rotation to do something that pulls them ahead of the pack. Chris Sampson answered that bell on Friday, striking out five batters in two innings of work against the Yankees.

One of the strikeout victims was Alex Rodriguez, who fanned on a Sampson slider in the sixth. Bronson Sardinha also struck out, and Todd Pratt ended the frame with a groundout to short. Sampson struck out the side -- Doug Mientkiewicz, Miguel Cairo and Andy Phillips -- in the seventh.

Sampson said he was a bit excitable when he first entered the game but calmed down in his second inning of work.

"I was a little pumped up," Sampson said. "I knew I was coming in, I knew A-Rod was going to be the first hitter. I was a little amped, probably overthrowing and pulling off, not staying closed, not staying under control. Once I settled down, the sinker started sinking a little bit more and I started hitting more spots. I felt more under control."

His catcher, Lou Santangelo, noticed a change, too.

"He kind of just relaxed and looked pretty smooth when I caught him," he said. "He started throwing his breaking ball and slider for strikes. His fastball had a lot of movement on it."

Sampson, who is competing with four pitchers for the final two spots in the rotation, hasn't allowed a run in his last three outings since giving up two on March 4 versus the Nationals.

"I gave up two runs in an inning and a third and walked a guy, which was not Chris Sampson-like," he said, referring to his first spring outing. "My game is going in there and throwing strikes, and I've definitely progressed. I can probably attribute that to my arm getting in shape and knocking the rust off mechanically and getting back to the feel of game situations."

Bearing down: It's only Spring Training, but Woody Williams didn't use that as an excuse for giving up three runs in the first inning of Friday's game with the Yankees.

The veteran right-hander said he "wasn't real pleased" after Robinson Cano knocked a three-run homer off him, but the jolt moved him to kick up the intensity level another notch or two.

It worked. Williams tossed four scoreless frames, aided by the defense turning three double plays.

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"The way it was going it was going to be a short outing," he said. "I didn't want to that to happen. I wanted to get some work in and luckily they started hitting balls to our infielders."

Williams, whose previous two outings were in Minor League games, has been dealing with elbow soreness for much of the spring. He estimated Friday was "the best day, so far."

"My arm rebounded well each inning and the elbow, as I speak right now, is no concern," he said.

Major upset: Family aside, Chris Burke has two great loves in his life: the University of Tennessee, and Duke University.

So it came as no big surprise that Burke reported to the clubhouse Friday morning a bit forlorn, hours after his Blue Devils bowed out to Virginia Commonwealth in the first round of the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

"But we've got the Vols going tonight," Burke said, referring to Tennessee's first-round matchup with Long Beach State. "Hopefully, it'll get me on track."

Burke need not have worried. The Volunteers tied a first-round record with 121 points to easily advance to the second round.

Odds and ends: In an effort to give his catcher an extra at-bat on Friday, manager Phil Garner slotted Brad Ausmus into the two-hole on Friday against the Yankees, between Craig Biggio and Lance Berkman. "This is about typical about what I do with Brad this time of spring," Garner said. "I start to try to get him some more at-bats." Ausmus was 0-for-2 with a walk. ... Catcher Humberto Quintero did not play on Friday, one day after taking a Brad Lidge fastball off his left wrist. "I feel fine," Quintero said. "No problems." ... Dan Wheeler and Trever Miller pitched in a Minor League game Friday. ... Adam Everett was back in the lineup against the Yankees after missing two games with soreness in his lower back. He won't travel to Vero Saturday but will play Sunday at home against the Blue Jays. Brian Moehler will start the game at Vero Beach on Saturday. Matt Albers, Miguel Asencio, Ezequiel Astacio and Paul Estrada are also scheduled to pitch against the Dodgers.

Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.