For Mike Adams, one particular difference stands out between pro ball and his days pitching at Nature Coast and the University of Tampa.
Unlike at the prep and college level, there’s little time for rest.
A year after helping UT win a Division II national title and becoming the first former Shark drafted in any professional sport, the 23-year-old Adams is in the midst of his first full season in the Boston Red Sox organization, pitching for the Class A Greenville Dive in South Carolina.
“I’m having a great time out there,” Adams said. “It’s definitely different. It’s definitely an adjustment. But it’s a great group of guys. The pitching coach is awesome. I think I’m getting a lot better. I don’t know how much better I could get, but I’m definitely improving.
“I think the biggest adjustment is the way we play. We play every day. When I pitch I might get a day off and then I’m pitching the next day. You don’t really have time to recover. You’ve got to take care of your body a little better. On the mound, pitching is pitching.”
Adams’ downtime is particularly less, considering his role as a left-handed reliever.
So far he has appeared in 17 games, recording three saves. He has a 1-2 record with a 3.65 earned run average, and has struck out 22 batters in 24.2 innings.
“Lately I’ve been closing games more,” Adams said. “It doesn’t really matter to me whenever they put me in. Pitching is pitching. I don’t have any say so, but I do enjoy my role.”
Adams noted that lefty specialists can have lengthy careers in the majors.
Right now, though, he’s still gaining his bearings in the lower level of the Red Sox farm system.
Soon after being selected with the seventh pick of the seventh round, 203rd overall in last June’s First-Year Player Draft, the 6-foot-3, 215-pound 2009 Nature Coast grad spurned his final year of eligibility at UT to sign with Boston.
Appearing in eight games last season for the Lowell Spinners, Boston’s Short-Season A affiliate in Lowell, Mass., he went 0-1 with a 5.27 ERA and one save.
It was quite a turnaround for a player who appeared in just 13 games, and 16 innings, over his first three collegiate seasons, including a redshirt year.
In 2013 with the Spartans, he pitched in 26 games, compiling an 8-0 record and six saves, to go with a 2.10 ERA. Across 64.1 frames, he yielded 51 hits and eight walks against 77 strikeouts.
Despite those stout numbers, he has had to continue to evolve in the pros.
“When I got here out of college I was mainly fastball, curveball. I threw the changeup every now and then. They’ve been able to help me with my changeup,” Adams said. “In college I didn’t pitch inside much and that’s another thing (pitching coach Paul Abbott) stresses.”
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Along with the daily grind of the schedule comes long days. Adams estimates that he’s typically at a ballpark from 1:30 to 11:30 p.m.
Learning to deal with that is part of what it takes to extend his career. So, too, does working on his foremost goal, gaining consistency.
“When you get drafted, you have the tools already. It’s about being consistent; mentally consistent, physically consistent,” Adams said. “In baseball, you’re going to get hit. You’ll have bad outings. It’s the ability to come back from the bad outings and still have confidence in your stuff.”
Adams had nothing but positive things to say about the Red Sox. Though he admittedly doesn’t have another frame of reference, he has heard other players speak highly of the organization as compared to other teams in Major League Baseball.
The hope, of course, is to work his way up the system until he’s throwing pitches at Fenway Park. Yet Adams remains fixated on the present.
“I found you have no control over that at all,” Adams said of advancing to the next level. “All you can do is focus on the task at hand. It’s one batter at a time, one pitch at a time, and the rest will take care of itself.”
By the numbers: Mike Adams
GP IP H R ER BB K W L S ERA
17 24.2 27 13 10 6 22 1 2 3 3.65