Phillies Notebook: Reliever Adams throws off mound

Posted: February 28, 2014

CLEARWATER, Fla. - For the second straight morning, the catcher's mitt popped with each pitch delivered with precision by the rehabbing pitcher.

On Wednesday, it was Cole Hamels. Yesterday, Mike Adams took his turn.

"It looked like he was popping it pretty good," manager Ryne Sandberg said of Adams. "I was impressed."

As with Hamels, Adams was throwing off the mound for the first time in spring training. But unlike Hamels, Adams didn't sound as certain about his future.

Adams, who hadn't thrown off a mound since last summer before his side session yesterday, is at best cautiously optimistic. He's also very realistic, too.

"Before I came out here, I was nervous," said Adams, who had shoulder surgery on July 31. "I was worried. Everything's an unknown. I don't know how it's going to go. It seems like every time I'm going out there, I'm hoping for the best. Just trying to stay positive. Every pitch could be the last pitch."

Adams was worried because, just 4 days earlier, he felt discomfort after pitching off flat ground. It was the first time he felt it during his lengthy rehab, which also included undergoing sports hernia surgery in October.

Phillies head athletic trainer Scott Sheridan told Adams that it was completely normal to panic.

"That's probably going to be the biggest struggle for me," Adams said.

Adams, who turns 36 in July, is scheduled to throw off the mound again on Sunday. He is aiming to jump into Grapefruit League action in mid-March, and if his progression continues upward, into major league games some time in April.

The veteran reliever is coming off a lost 2013 season, his first since the Phillies signed him to a 2-year, $12 million free-agent deal to cure the team's eighth-inning woes.

Adams had surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome, which included having a rib removed, before signing with the Phillies. He pitched in just 28 games last year, and none after June 19.

When he did pitch, Adams did not always have the stuff that made him one of the game's top non-closer relief arms with San Diego and Texas from 2008-11. His fastball topped out at 90.4 mph, according to Pitch F/x data.

Adams' fastball actually has been on a steady decline: It peaked at 91.57 in 2012, 93.23 in 2011 and 94.3 in 2010.

"I'm really just going to have to focus and bear down and if I do miss, I don't miss in the middle and I don't miss up," Adams said. "It's going to be a work in progress."

Adams mentioned former teammates Greg Maddux and Trevor Hoffman as two pitchers who were able to pitch effectively with decreased velocity. If Adams is healthy, he'll attempt to do that, too.

Following his first trip to the mound in more than 6 months, Adams felt healthy. And that's at least an encouraging starting point.

"It went good, really good," he said. "It was probably an 85 percent bullpen or so. I wasn't trying to let loose right off the bat. I was trying to get a good feel for throwing off the slope again."

Darin Ruf and John Mayberry Jr. each hit home runs in the Phillies' 7-5 defeat to the Toronto Blue Jays in Dunedin.

Ruf's two-run shot in the third inning off Esmil Rogers banged off the scoreboard over the fence in left-center of Florida Auto Exchange Stadium. It was the first home run by a Phillies player this spring.

"Yeah, it was good to see that . . . and he hit another ball hard," Sandberg said. "That's a good sign for him."

Ruf, starting in leftfield, finished 1-for-3 with a walk. Mayberry went 2-for-3.

Both are competing for a job on the bench. The team is unlikely to keep Ruf, Mayberry and Kevin Frandsen - all righthanded hitters - into the regular season when they employ a five-man bench.

Cesar Hernandez, competing for a bench job, took ground balls at third base yesterday morning in Clearwater before the Phillies boarded the bus to Dunedin. Ryne Sandberg, who watched the infield drills, was impressed with the infielder's arm. Sandberg said Hernandez, a natural second baseman, will work at both third and shortstop this spring to increase his versatility. Hernandez has played one game at shortstop in the last five seasons and none at third . . .

Lefthander Jake Diekman gave up two runs on four hits in the fourth inning of the Phillies' loss to Toronto in his spring debut. "He got ground balls," Sandberg said. "Balls were hit on the ground and we didn't play good defense behind him" . . . Kyle Kendrick will make his spring debut in Clearwater against the Detroit Tigers today (1:05 p.m., TCN).

On Twitter: @ryanlawrence21


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