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12/24/08 10:00 AM EST

Sampson cooking up treat for holidays

Astros right-hander looking forward to trying to fry a turkey

The Hot Stove season is stressful for front offices, busy for reporters and fun for fans. But for the players, the offseason simply is a time to relax. Right-hander Chris Sampson, feeling great since undergoing right elbow surgery in October, is enjoying quite a bit of down time at his Houston home, where he's getting ready to celebrate the holidays with his immediate family -- his wife, Heather, and his son, C.J. -- and a host of extended family that plans to gather for a fun-filled time of gift giving, and, of course, feasting.

On his way home from a recent hunting trip, Sampson took some time to talk with MLB.com about Christmas -- the childhood memories, this year's celebration and all of his favorite things that accompany the holiday season. We also needled him for some information about how his rehab is progressing.

MLB.com: What are your plans for the holidays this year?

Holiday Q&A width=
ARI: Conor Jackson
ATL: Blaine Boyer
BAL: Jeremy Guthrie
BOS: M. Delcarmen
CHC: Kevin Gregg
CWS: John Danks
CIN: Jay Bruce
CLE: Ryan Garko
COL: Clint Barmes
DET: Nate Robertson
FLA: Josh Johnson
HOU: Chris Sampson
KC: Trey Hillman
LAA: Ron Roenicke
LAD: Andre Ethier
MIL: Seth McClung
MIN: Joe Nathan
NYM: Mike Pelfrey
NYY: Brian Bruney
OAK: J. Duchscherer
PHI: Jimmy Rollins
PIT: Frank Coonelly
SD: Chase Headley
SF: Sergio Romo
SEA: Don Wakamatsu
STL: John Roney
TB: Grant Balfour
TEX: Ian Kinsler
TOR: Rod Barajas
WAS: Steven Shell

Sampson: All my family's coming over. We'll have a big get-together at my house, with my mom and Heather cooking up Christmas dinner. Dad and I are in charge of the turkey. We're going to try frying a turkey this year -- I hear that's pretty good. Hopefully, Dad and I don't mess it up. This is our first try to fry one.

Then we'll have a gift exchange on Christmas Day, probably after everybody eats. We'll gather around the Christmas tree in the living room and have an exchange. I can't wait.

MLB.com: Your son, C.J., is 17 months old. How has Christmas changed since you've had him?

Sampson: My Christmas presents have gotten a lot less and C.J. has gotten a lot more (laughs), and I wouldn't trade that for the world. It's very exciting to be able to see his face light up when he comes down and sees all his presents Santa Claus brought, and to be able to watch him open the presents is the highlight. That's the best part.

MLB.com: Is he still in the stage where he likes the wrapping more than the gifts?

Sampson: Last year, he had a lot more fun playing with the paper. This year, it should be different. He's starting to talk and he's understanding what Christmas is all about. Whenever he gets a new toy, he's so excited.

MLB.com: Do you have a favorite Christmas memory from when you were a kid?

Sampson: One year, we went to my grandmother's house in the country, in northeast Texas. It snowed. Growing up in Houston, I'd never played in snow. I always played in shorts with my new toys. So that Christmas will always stand out to me -- we had snow on the ground, I played in the snow, played with my new toys and then had a big dinner.

MLB.com: Do you have any favorite Christmas songs or movies?

Sampson: My favorite Christmas movie would be Chevy Chase's "Christmas Vacation." It doesn't get old. I know the entire movie almost by heart. I know every line before he says it. But it never gets old.

MLB.com: Any foods you look forward to having on Christmas that you don't have otherwise?

Sampson: Pumpkin pie. And I'm actually really looking forward to this fried turkey.

MLB.com: Let's talk baseball for just a second. How is your elbow, and after the holidays, what will your workout regimen entail?

Sampson: The elbow feels great. No pain whatsoever. Last year, it started hurting when I went to Spring Training, and all year it was just killing me. Now, all of the pain is gone and I'll be ready to go.

I've been working out since November, but I'm a little anxious to start working out my upper body, which I haven't started yet. I'll be meeting with Dr. (Tom) Mehlhoff and talk about throwing again. I've been limited with what I can do workout-wise with my upper body. So I've been focusing on legs and core work -- lunges, squats and reverse hyperextension for the lower back. A lot of sit-ups and crunches and some rotational stuff for obliques. That's all I've been concentrating on.

As a pitcher, you don't have to have a ton of upper-body strength. Yeah, you want to be strong, but at the same time, you want to be flexible. But you want to be strong with your legs.

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