There was not much good to be taken from the game as the Akron Aeros walked off the field Sunday evening following a 7-2 loss to the Erie SeaWolves. A bright spot that was lost in the shuffle was the eighth inning performance of Aeros’ reliever Austin Adams. Coming off shoulder surgery that cost him the entire 2012 season, Adams has come on strong as a solid, dependable arm out of the pen. On Sunday, Adams added another solid appearance with a perfect inning in which he struck out two batters. Once a top ten organization prospect, injury has pushed the right handed throwing Adams seemingly off the radar.
Adams was drafted initially by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 27th round of the 2008 Amateur Draft. He did not sign however, and returned to play another year of college baseball. The following draft the Cleveland Indians made Adams their fifth round pick. He started his professional career in Mahoning Valley where he went 3-1 in 17 games out of the bullpen. He moved to the starting rotation in 2010, and split the season between Lake County and Kinston, the Indians High-A affiliate. On the season he posted a record of 8-5 with a 2.49 ERA and struck out 112 batters in as many innings. He was climbing the ranks in the Indians system, advancing to Akron in 2011 winning 11 games with a 3.77 ERA and a career high 131 strikeouts.
At the close of the 2011 season, the then 24 year old Adams was ranked eighth among Indians prospects, and was rated “best fastball” in the Indians organization by Baseball America. Adams was on the fast track to success; then a shoulder injury suffered in the spring of 2012 sidelined his journey. He missed the entire 2012 season, and the beginning of the 2013 campaign. His progress was halted.
Adams had to watch the first few weeks of the 2013 season as his teammates played baseball in Canal Park.
“I was out in Arizona trying to convince them to let me go out there,” Adams said, “They just kept saying ‘Nope, not yet.’”
He finally did get out there, making his season debut on April 19. It was a shaky outing, he gave up a hit, three walks, and two runs in one inning, but he also struck out three batters. His next time out was a little more productive, throwing a perfect inning against Trenton Thunder. Adams held nothing back from the very beginning.
“Initially the hardest part was just getting my arm going,” Adams said, “Once it did I told myself they fixed it. If you hold back then that’s where you are going to hurt yourself.”
Confidence in his surgically repaired shoulder has translated into confidence on the mound.
“I feel great,” Adams said, “My arm is bouncing back fine after surgery, I feel like I could throw back-to-back days.”
Aeros’ pitching coach Greg Hibbard shares Adam’s confidence.
“His arm strength is back, he is throwing as good as ever,” Hibbard said, “some of his command issues stem from an inconsistent delivery, but with every outing he’s getting closer.”
On the season Adams is 0-1 in 13 relief appearances with a 4.15 ERA. A most impressive statistic is his 27 strikeouts in just 17.1 innings pitched, a good sign that he can indeed get guys out despite the fairly high ERA. His FIP (Fieliding Independent Pitching) is a very good 2.97, an indication that he has just been unlucky so far this season. FIP is a statistic that seperates a pitchers performace from his defense, isolating what the pitcher and only the pitcher can control, like walks, strikeouts, and home runs. This is further supported by his extremely high BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) of .378. Hitters have seemingly been getting the good hops and bloopers to get on base and get runs in against Adams. Expect his numbers to balance out as he sees more time and his ERA to drop considerably.
The Aeros could use a 100 percent Adams; they have dropped four of their last six games, including three in a row to fall to fifth place in the Eastern League Western Division with a record of 22-29. They played well in the opening game against the Erie SeaWolves winning 3-0 on a gem pitched by Matt Packer. They then lost three straight, including an extra innings loss on Monday evening. Akron returns home Tuesday night to host a three game set against the Harrison Senators, a Washington Nationals affiliate and fellow EL Western rival.