Pitch well in a pinch, pack your bags for Triple-A Portland and then, invariably, repeat it all over again. That has, essentially, been the drill for the left-handed reliever this season.
But if there's been one constant to Hampson's roller-coaster ride in 2007, it's been this -- when the Padres have needed innings from him (and quality ones, at that), he's delivered.
Such was the case on a warm night at Coors Field on Tuesday when Hampson was left to pick up the pieces in what became a 5-3 victory over the Rockies in a game where Chris Young left after two innings due to a strained left oblique muscle.
Hampson didn't qualify for the victory, although his 3 2/3 scoreless innings certainly caught the attention of manager Bud Black, who praised Hampson for being able to thrive when called upon in a pinch.
"Justin was outstanding," Black said. "There's been a number of games when he's come through in that situation."
Perhaps none more important than Tuesday, though, as the Padres certainly needed a lift after dropping their last four games, including Monday's 7-5 setback where the bullpen allowed five runs in the eighth inning.
And Hampson's effort on Tuesday proved even more important after Young -- who leads all Major League pitchers with a 1.82 ERA -- strained his oblique while delivering a pitch to Garrett Atkins in the second inning.
Young, who has easily been the Padres' most consistent starting pitcher this season, could miss a start. If, however, his oblique reacts well to a side session later this week, he could make a start Sunday in Houston, which would be his normal turn in the rotation.
But with the oblique, there's no set timetable. And Young has never had an injury of this nature, so predicting a timeline or even pegging him for a possible spot on the 15-day disabled list is premature at this point.
"I've never had anything like it ... I didn't even know what the sensation I was feeling," said Young, who breezed through his first two innings before leaving when he couldn't make his warm-up tosses in the third inning without pain. "It could be minor, it could be severe. Hopefully, it won't be too bad."
If it's determined that Young can't start Sunday against the Astros, Black said the leading candidates to start that day would be one of three pitchers with Portland -- Ryan Ketchner, Mike Thompson or Tim Stauffer.
"We're hoping for the best, that he can make a start Sunday," Black said.
At least the Padres (54-45) know they can rely on Hampson, who induced seven ground-ball outs during his 49-pitch outing, allowing only two hits and very little in the way of trouble.
"I think I still have that starter's mentality to try to pitch to contact early," said Hampson, who was primarily a starting pitcher in the Minor Leagues with the Rockies, of all teams, before the Padres claimed him off waivers last October.
Two other times this season, Hampson -- who was recalled Monday from Portland -- has bailed out the Padres with long stints out of the bullpen. And each time he was optioned back to Portland the next day.
"No more Portland jokes," Hampson said, laughing.
Hampson wasn't the only Padres reliever to come up big on Tuesday, as Kevin Cameron came in to finish the sixth inning for Hampson, striking out Colorado's All-Star outfielder Matt Holliday with a nasty four-seam fastball to end the inning.
With the Padres leading 3-0, Doug Brocail was summoned from the bullpen, though he didn't fare nearly as well as Hampson or Cameron. Brocail allowed three runs and the game remained tied only after a heads-up play by second baseman Geoff Blum.
With the potential go-ahead run on second base and three runs already in, speedy Willy Taveras bounced a ball to Blum, who had to use his backhand to field it. Knowing he had virtually no chance at Taveras at first, Blum alertly threw behind the runner, catching Ryan Spilborghs rounding the third base bag too far. Spilborghs was then caught in a rundown and eventually tagged out.
The Padres came right back in the top of the eighth inning to score two runs as Adrian Gonzalez drilled a double to center field to score Michael Barrett, who doubled off of Ramon Ramirez (2-2) with one out in the inning.
The Padres added an insurance run later in the inning when Khalil Greene hit a sacrifice fly to right field to score Milton Bradley from third. Bradley, who reached base three times, also scored in the first inning when Mike Cameron hit a three-run home run off Ubaldo Jimenez.
From there, Heath Bell (4-2) worked a scoreless eighth inning and Trevor Hoffman picked up his 28th save of the season, retiring the side in the ninth.
"It was," Black said, "a great bullpen day."
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.