Adams dominating while on the comeback trail
Right-hander tearing up the Eastern League as he makes his way back from shoulder surgery
Baseball players are supposed to play baseball.
That sounds like a simple idea, but that tautology does not always hold.
More often than we all realize, injuries affect players and prevent them from reaching their full potential. Plus, pitchers are all time bombs waiting to explode.
Add it all together and you get where Akron Aeros right-hander Austin Adams was last year. Heading into spring training, Adams was shut down with tightness in his right shoulder. After two false starts at getting going, the right-hander was eventually shut down for good and underwent shoulder surgery in May.
Missing an entire year to injury can be -- and on some level should be -- scary, but that is not how Adams is looking at it.
"I told myself they fixed it," Adams said. "If it's fixed, then I've just got to go with it. Because if you hold back, that's where you're going to hurt yourself even more... You start compensating something, using your legs differently, maybe trying to do too much with something else."
So far this season it looks like Adams is completely fixed. After striking out 21.9 percent of batters in 2011 as a starter, Adams is up to 41.2 percent this year. The right-hander says that all of his stuff feels just like it did before the surgery, and pitching coach Greg Hibbard agrees.
"He was 99 MPH today [last Sunday], averaging 96," Hibbard said. "So arm strength is definitely there... When you've got a guy who can pitch and locate and shows a four-pitch mix, that's strong stuff."
Everything is working now, but it took a lot of effort to get back to this point. Adams said he never lost his pitches, but did have to regain the ability to actually pitch.
"The hardest part was just getting my arm back into throwing motion," Adams said. "I started throwing four months after surgery in my rehab and the hardest part was just getting it going again, getting everything loosened up, getting all the new muscle in there to loosen up."
Part of what the organization is doing to help Adams get back is pitch him out of the bullpen. He has been developed as a starter to date, though he has experience relieving in the past. Adams played shortstop in college and came in as a reliever to close out games.
"I was okay with it," Adams said. "I kind of had a feeling after everything got back to normal I'd go in the bullpen, at least for this year. We're still not sure what's going to happen, and that way they can keep an eye on my innings."
The bullpen is suiting Adams well, though there have been some struggles. His ERA is a respectable 2.84 and the strikeouts are hiding the walks (11.8 percent walk rate) that have been a part of relearning control. Overall, Adams' 12.2 innings since returning have gone quite well.
But just because Adams is doing well now does not mean that the rehab was easy.
"It was rough," Adams said. "It takes a toll on you mentally. You've just got to find stuff to do, stay busy, and stay happy with yourself."
And what stuff did he do?
"I took my bow and arrow back out there with me [to Arizona]," Adams said. "We'd go out, just walk in the mountains, that kind of stuff... Just get outdoors, because there's so much to do out there if you really want to."
Almost a year out from surgery, Adams is ready to let his passion for hunting stay in the offseason and to just pitch. He is all revved up to be have the restrictions off and pitch on back-to-back days.
Adams is dominating Double-A and has a live arm. As long as his health problems are finished, there is definitely a place in Cleveland for a guy like Adams.
"I just love being able to be out there and throw when my name is called on the phone," Adams said. "I'm just enjoying it and taking it step by step."
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