Mike Adams optimistic, but won't rush his return

Mike Adams optimistic, but won't rush his return
January 23, 2014, 3:45 pm
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Mike Adams made just 28 appearances for the Phillies in 2013. (USA Today Images)

Mike Adams is thrilled with the way his shoulder is responding after surgery.

He believes he could be ready for the Phillies' March 31 season opener.

But he won’t rush it.

“I think that’s very realistic,” the 35-year-old reliever said during a media availability session at Citizens Bank Park on Thursday. “I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t be ready for opening day.

“But at the same time I’m going to try not to set opening day as my final date. I don’t want to be ready opening day then all of a sudden I’m back on the disabled list in July or August or even sooner.

“My goal is to make sure I can finish the season and pitch in the postseason. If for some reason I’m not ready by April 1 -- if it’s April 15 or May 1, so be it. I just want to make sure that once I do get on the mound I don’t have to get off.”

The Phillies signed Adams to a two-year, $12 million contract before last season. The hope was that he would take the adventure out of the eighth inning, which had been a major problem in 2012. But Adams pitched in just 28 games in 2013 and none after June 19 because of a right shoulder injury that required surgery in late July.

Adams had a health issue even before the Phillies signed him. He had a rib surgically removed after the 2012 season to alleviate thoracic outlet syndrome. Adams reported to spring training last year feeling strong and throwing hard. In retrospect, he may have rushed things.

“I was so excited to get back out there that maybe I pushed it too fast,” he said. “I felt fine at the time. But who knows? I could have [rushed it]."

Adams also had hernia surgery after the 2013 season. But the shoulder is the main concern.

Adams described the last couple of months of his rehab as going “almost too good.” That’s a big improvement over when he started his rehab program last summer. At that time, he feared his career might be over.

“The first two months of rehab were rough,” he said. “I couldn’t get the pain out of my shoulder. I had persistent pain doing exercises. Those were months when I had my doubts. I was really doubting that everything would come back. But as I got more rest and recovery it improved and the last two and a half months have been beyond what I’ve expected.

“They’ve been so encouraging that I really do see myself being able to be a part of this team -- and not only be a part of it, but being a major factor.”

The Phillies would like that as they try to get something out of their investment in Adams.

Adams is currently throwing long toss at 100 feet. He will begin throwing bullpen sessions in mid-February. He said he would need about 10 Grapefruit League appearances to be ready for the regular season, but, again, emphasized he won’t rush.

“We're trying not to set things as far as what we’re trying to do,” Adams said. “We want to make sure everything is going smoothly. The last thing we want to do is rush it. So no true dates. Just more of a, hey, let’s get out there and work toward making progressions and when everything feels right my body will tell me.”

It would not be surprising to see the Phillies exercise caution with Adams and hold him back for a few weeks at the start of the season. In Adams’ absence, Antonio Bastardo and Jake Diekman could get work in the eighth inning.

Diekman made excellent strides late last season. The Phillies need the hard-throwing lefty to be a difference maker. Heck, you could say that about the whole bullpen.

“An effective bullpen can change the fortunes of any team,” Adams said. “When it comes down to it, the bullpen is what’s going to win or lose your season. The bullpen is probably the most important part of the ball club because no matter if you’re scoring a few runs or a lot of runs, if you don’t hold that lead you’re not going to win.”