Phils' Adams: Don't forget about me!

Posted: January 24, 2014

AS THE FREE-AGENT dominoes settle into a final configuration, Mike Adams cannot help but feel slighted.

With considerable fanfare, the Phillies signed Adams last year to a 2-year, $12 million deal to set up Jonathan Papelbon. Injury issues limited Adams to only 25 innings. Adams has undergone two surgeries since July, but he expects to be ready by Opening Day.

He expects to be the same pitcher who dominated late innings for five seasons.

No one seems to share those expectations. That exasperates Adams.

"If I can be the Mike Adams of old, it's like getting a big free-agent signing," Adams said. "That's a huge pickup."

It would be huger than adding Chad Gaudin, a 30-year-old swingman, but really a baseball everyman.

A late bloomer, Adams, 35, was anything but ordinary from 2008-12. He was 16-11 with a 1.98 earned run average in 297 games with the Padres and Rangers.

He was exactly what the Phillies lacked in 2013.

"If I was a good, effective me, I was missed dearly," Adams said. "It might give us eight to 10 more wins."

That turns the 89-loss Phillies into a .500 ballclub . . . and it changes the chemistry of a lousy bullpen. Maybe the hitters press less. Maybe the young relievers pitch better.

Maybe Papelbon isn't such a . . . well, Papelbon.

Now, despite a big price tag, Adams seems to be a forgotten man by fans and pundits.

"You get a little bit offended," he said. "At the same time, I can't disagree with them. I haven't done anything. Not only in their eyes, but in my eyes.

"This signing has been a waste."

Two months ago, Adams believed it was going to be a total waste. For 2 months, he couldn't escape persistent pain and soreness in his shoulder, which was surgically repaired in July. He never felt worse.

"I had huge doubts. I was thinking, 'Is my career over?' " Adams said. "I was really doubting everything was going to come back."

Perhaps, as has been his habit, Adams tried to do too much too soon . . . and suffered a sports hernia, repaired in October. He backed off, remained patient and . . . voila!

"The last 2 months have gone beyond what I expected. It's almost going too good," Adams said.

He is in the middle of a throwing program that has him at 100 feet. Twice, he said, he snuck in to 60 feet, 6 inches and "let it go," he said, smiling. "The ball has come out really good."

He is euphoric.

"I see myself not only being a part of this team, but being a major factor," Adams said.

He will head to Clearwater, Fla., in 10 days, reporting early for what he hopes will be a regular spring-training session; a dozen or so appearances, then hitting the mound running.

"I don't see any reason why I wouldn't be ready for Opening Day," he said.

Adams quickly qualified that prediction. He knows that a setback or two seems inevitable, and so he will not rush himself:

"I don't want to be ready Opening Day and be back on the DL come July or August or sooner. My goal is to finish the season and hopefully into the postseason. If it's April 15th, or May 1st, so be it."

Adams believes he tried to do too much too soon last year when he was coming off October 2012 surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome.

That was then.

Since then, Adams has realized the sort of offseason epiphany common with players in their 30s. A Texas native, Adams remained at his home in Voorhees, N.J., to prepare for his crucial 2013 campaign. He hired a trainer for the first time in his career: Rob Rabena, the sports performance director at Maplezone Sports Institute in Garnet Valley. At 6-5 and a wiry 195 pounds, Adams - a splendid athlete and an elite basketball player - already looked like the edge of a knife.

After a few weeks with Rabena, that edge has been honed to 185 pounds. They focused on Adams' lower body and core, concentrated on stabilizing and strengthening his scapula to allow it freer movement; and designed a better diet: no fried foods, no caffeine, limited alcohol consumption. Very limited.

"I mean, in the offseason, you finish your workout, get dinner and maybe pop open a bottle of wine," Adams said. "I'm very strict now. You look at me and you'd say, 'You can't lose 10 pounds.' I've turned it into good weight.' "

Maybe that will turn into good outings, which in turn would result in at least one more big payday for Adams. If he pitches 60 innings in 2014, a club option will become vested and pay him $6 million in 2015.

"My No. 1 goal is to get that option," Adams said.

If he hits the number, it will mean he is healthy. It will mean the Phillies have leads, and he is holding them in the eighth inning.

Today, he feels the option is attainable.

"I don't remember feeling this good when I had healthy offseasons," Adams said.

But he isn't healthy. Not fully. He hasn't added the strain of throwing off a mound, the adrenaline pump of throwing to hitters in games.

"I know I'm still not cleared yet. I don't think I'll ever be [without injury worry]," he said. "I'm one bad pitch, one slight injury, and that could be it. I have to maintain it. Stay healthy and strong enough to keep on going out there."

That means telling his handlers when he needs a day off. "Maybe 2 days off in a row," he said.

That means eating smart on the road when it's so easy to eat (and drink) badly.

It all could mean pitching into 2015, and beyond.

"I'm trying to write a few more chapters in the book," Adams said. "I want it to be a happy ending. I don't want you to get to the last few pages and they're empty."

So far, the Phillies chapter has been pretty sparse reading.

Adams believes the story will take a pleasant turn sooner than later.


Email: hayesm@phillynews.com

On Twitter: @inkstainedretch

Blog: ph.ly/DNL

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