Tribe's Adams feeling encouraged, comfortable

Righty 4 years removed from shoulder surgery, looks 'phenomenal' in 2016 debut

Tribe's Adams feeling encouraged, comfortable

CHICAGO -- Four years to the day after Indians right-hander Austin Adams had the reconstructive shoulder surgery that changed the course of his career, he stood in the visitors' clubhouse at U.S. Cellular Field fresh off an outing that brought nothing but encouragement.

He made his season debut with the Indians on Sunday against the Red Sox and went two innings, giving up no runs and only one hit to go along with two strikeouts. Considering it came against a dangerous Boston lineup, Indians manager Terry Francona called his performance "phenomenal."

Adams said he felt great on the mound, and the feeling hasn't subsided.

"Nothing like getting the call and getting right in there," he said.

Adams, who allowed one hit and three walks in 1 1/3 scoreless innings in the Tribe's 7-6 loss to open Monday's doubleheader vs. the White Sox, has long been an impressive arm in the Indians' organization. But he suffered a right shoulder injury in his first Major League Spring Training in 2012. The reconstructive surgery repaired his labrum and rotator cuff. He couldn't throw for four months.

Unlike elbow surgeries, shoulder surgeries often come with longer rehab and more intensive maintenance. In some cases, the arm is never the same.

"Being shoulder surgery, you just have to maintain the strength and stay with the same process and workout routines you were doing when you were doing rehab," Adams said.

He overcame the challenges of his lengthy rehabilitation to make Major League appearances in 2014 and '15, pitching in 28 games with a 3.78 ERA for the Indians last season.

This Spring Training, Adams didn't crack the roster, but it wasn't because Francona doubted him. Francona said Adams had a tendency to struggle against his first batter, getting behind in counts or leaving pitches over the plate. Adams was dazzling at times, but Francona wanted to be sure.

"When we sent him down, we were like, 'This is what we want to see, we don't want to just send you down,'" Francona said. "Some of the Spring Training outings that you're not giving up runs, if you come into a game during the season, if you come in and throw ball one, ball two, ball three, we have to get somebody else up. We just wanted to explain that to him. I think he took it to heart."

Adams went 2-1 with a 1.10 ERA in 14 games with Triple-A Columbus this season. In addition to getting ahead of hitters more consistently, he used a deeper grip to hone his slider, giving it more downward action as opposed to side-to-side movement. He got four swings-and-misses on his slider Sunday.

"That was a really impressive two innings," Francona said. "Now, following it up and being consistent is huge."

Adams said he doesn't worry about his shoulder, but he has become more comfortable every year since his surgery. He hopes his fifth year removed will be the best one yet.

"It's just getting it another year behind you and just enjoying baseball. … It's just another hurdle you have to overcome in this life," Adams said.

Cody Stavenhagen is a reporter for MLB.com based in Chicago. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.