Rehabbing Adams confident he'll be ready to help Phils

In spring training, the Phillies saw reliever Mike Adams as a cure for the team's eighth-inning woes. He had a 3.96 ERA in 28 games.
In spring training, the Phillies saw reliever Mike Adams as a cure for the team's eighth-inning woes. He had a 3.96 ERA in 28 games. (   YONG KIM / Staff)
Posted: January 25, 2014

Mike Adams doubted everything in the first months after the ninth surgery performed on his body. He still had persistent pain in his right shoulder, which was torn in three spots and repaired in late July. His strenuous workouts led to surgery No. 10 in October for a sports hernia.

"There were questions," Adams said. "Like, 'Was my career over?' "

He stood at his locker Thursday in the Phillies clubhouse at Citizens Bank Park and oozed optimism. These last two months were beyond encouraging, he said. He is behind on his usual throwing program, but opening day remains a target. The setup man who is owed $7 million this season said he can help.

But Adams understands reality for a 35-year-old pitcher with an extensive injury history.

"It's still not cleared yet, where everything is fine," he said. "I don't think it will ever be that way again."

Adams expects to throw off a mound in mid-February. He said he typically starts throwing bullpen sessions in January. And Adams has a tendency to push himself, so the Phillies are not using specific dates as goals.

"I don't see any reason why I wouldn't be ready for opening day," Adams said. "At the same time, I'm not trying to set opening day as my final date. I don't want to be ready opening day, and then, all of a sudden, I'm back on the DL come July or August. My goal is to make sure I can finish the season and pitch months of the season and into the postseason."

Adams said he could be ready after 10 spring outings. Whether he can recapture the talent that produced a 1.60 ERA in 145 games over 2010 and 2011 is another question. The Phillies have adjusted their expectations for him.

When they signed Adams for two years and $12 million, they purchased one of the game's premiere eighth-inning relievers. Adams needed surgery in October 2012 for thoracic outlet syndrome (a nerve problem), but Phillies doctors approved the signing.

His first season as a Phillie, which lasted 25 innings, was a total loss. Adams said he felt right for "maybe the first month." He went to the disabled list with a back problem. On June 19, he threw 12 pitches in a spotless inning, but hours later, he could not lift his right arm.

He delayed surgery for more than a month to pursue alternative treatment options. A platelet-rich plasma injection did not improve things. The surgery fixed multiple tears in Adams' rotator cuff and labrum. Shoulder injuries are considered more challenging than elbow issues for pitchers, especially for one in his mid-30s.

Adams lives in Philadelphia year-round, and he has rehabbed this winter at a facility in West Chester, while never too far from Phillies officials. He is throwing every day and describes his current state as "almost too good."

"The last two months have been so encouraging," Adams said. "I really do see myself being a part of this team, and not only part of it, but a major factor on this team."

There are few locks for the Phillies bullpen - Jonathan Papelbon, Antonio Bastardo, Jake Diekman, and probably Brad Lincoln - and roles are undetermined. The bullpen's 4.19 ERA ranked 27th in baseball last season.

"An effective bullpen can change the fortunes of any team," Adams said. "When it comes down to it, the bullpen is what will win or lose your season. The bullpen is probably the most important part of the ball club."

Adams, if healthy, is an important piece of that unit and any potential success for these Phillies.



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