Rarin’ to go, Mike Adams will pitch Thursday

Rarin’ to go, Mike Adams will pitch Thursday
February 27, 2013, 6:15 pm
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CLEARWATER, Fla. – One of the biggest challenges for Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee so far this spring has been reeling in Mike Adams.

The team’s new setup man, feeling good again after offseason surgery, has been like a frisky colt, ready to run. Adams has cranked it up in his bullpen sessions to the point where he’s had to be reminded, in a kidding way, to save a few bullets for when things matter.

“He almost looks too ready for right now,” Erik Kratz said after catching Adams in live batting practice last week. “The ball is coming out of his hand real well.”

A longer than usual spring training (to accommodate the World Baseball Classic) has allowed Dubee to bring Adams along slowly. On Thursday, the righthander’s wait ends. He is scheduled to pitch one inning in relief against the Atlanta Braves at Bright House Field. It will be the first of about eight appearances that Adams will need to be ready for April 1, when things get going for real.

The Phillies blew 13 eighth-inning leads last year. Adams has been one of the best eighth-inning men in baseball the last handful of seasons. Since 2009, the 34-year-old Texan has a 1.84 ERA and 112 holds, tops among relievers with 200 innings or more. He is expected to handle the cleanup on Aisle 8.

“He has a chance to carry a lot of weight because that was such an Achilles heel for us last year,” Dubee said.

Said Adams: “I feel if we have leads, we have a pretty good chance to keep them.”

Adams pitched with a condition called thoracic outlet syndrome last season and his ERA swelled to 3.27. In simple terms, TOS is a condition that causes nerves to become squeezed between the top rib and collarbone causing “heavy arm” and numbness in the fingers, both bad things for a pitcher.

“I felt like I was throwing a shot put last year,” Adams said.

Doctors fixed the problem by surgically removing the rib under Adams’ collarbone. He says he felt better within days of the surgery and is back to firing baseballs instead of shot puts.

“The difference I feel is incredible,” he said. “Last year was a huge struggle. To be able to pitch again with my true stuff is exciting.”

The Phils signed Adams to a two-year, $12 million deal in mid-December. If he ends up fixing the eighth inning, the Phillies may look back and wonder what might have been if they had completed a proposed late-November trade for Houston setup man Wilton Lopez. The Phillies went as far as to give Lopez a physical exam before putting the brakes on the deal for a reason they won’t disclose. Lopez was later traded to Colorado. Had the Phils come to an agreement with Houston, Adams would not be a Phillie.

“We probably would not have” signed him, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. admitted.

Entering the offseason, Adams had Philly pegged as a place he’d like to pitch. He knew the Phillies had a need for an eighth-inning reliever. His agent spoke to the Phillies early in the free-agent period.

“I followed their offseason,” Adams said. “There was interest on both sides and we stayed in touch.”

When it got out that Lopez was on the Phils’ radar, Adams’ side called Amaro.

“Ruben said it was still a possibility,” Adams said. “In the beginning of December, it got hot.”

That would have been right after the deal for Lopez fell apart.

Adams’ contract includes a third-year vesting option that could bring the deal up to $18 million. He says he turned down more guaranteed money and a chance to close because he likes the Phillies’ chances of winning.

Those chances will increase greatly if Adams can plug the leak in the eighth inning.

He’s healthy and ready to get on the mound Thursday.

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