Behind a stellar start by Jason Adam on Sunday, the Kane County Cougars defeated Beloit for the…
Jason Adam debuts for Kane County
Jason Adam, a Blue Valley Northwest graduate, was originally acquired by the Royals in the fifth round of the 2010 draft. Because his signing bonus ($800K) was well above slot, the Commissioner's Office sat on his contract until the August 15 deadline, and Adam did not get a chance to pitch competitively during the 2010 season. After spending the first month of the 2011 season in extended spring training, the highly-touted right-hander made his professional debut for the Kane County Cougars on Tuesday night in Cedar Rapids.
"It was a small attendance tonight, a thousand-something, but that's a thousand more than I've ever thrown in front of, so I was pretty excited," said Adam in a postgame interview with Royals Corner.
Adam admits that he battled some nerves early on, but it didn't take him long to regain his focus.
"I was a little nervous before the game," he said. "But as soon as that first pitch hit, I think the nerves went away.
Adam's first pitch was a 93 mph strike on the outside corner to Kernels leadoff hitter Jesus Campos. A few pitches later, Adam caught Campos looking on another 93 mph fastball for his first professional strikeout. The 19-year-old right-hander held the Kernels scoreless through his first two innings, running his fastball as high as 94 mph while fanning two and surrendering just one hit, a bloop single.
Two walks and two singles led to a pair of Cedar Rapids runs in the third, and the Kernels added another tally in the fourth after Daniel Eichelberger doubled and scored on a Rolando Gomez RBI single. Adam departed the game with a man on and one out in the fifth inning, with the Cougars trailing the Kernels, 3-1.
Dusty Odenbach entered in relief and coaxed a pair of grounders to short, closing the book on Adam's debut. The Kansas City native's final line reflects that he pitched 4.1 innings, allowing three runs (all earned) on five hits and four walks while striking out three. The Cougars offense rallied for a pair of runs in the sixth – taking Adam off the hook for the loss – and scored twice in the ninth to deliver the 5-4 win for Kane County.
"I obviously struggled a little bit with my command," said Adam. "I dug us in a little bit of a hole, but I'm glad I kept us in it enough that we were able to come back and get the win."
Adam, who was on a strict 75-pitch count, threw primarily fastballs, mixing in six or seven breaking balls and just one changeup – on the last pitch he threw. When asked to assess his performance, the young right-hander reflected that his pitch selection could have been better.
"I felt like my fastball to start was off and on," said Adam. "My curveball I felt pretty confident in, but I didn't throw it enough. They were able to sit fastball on me, and I should have made some more adjustments and used my curveball more often."
Adam explained that his lack of changeups during his debut stemmed from his need to work on improving the pitch.
"I've been kind of working on my changeup lately," said Adam. "I'm not as confident in it as I am my other two pitches."
In the first inning, the 6-foot-4 right-hander's fastball sat at 91-93 mph, topping out once at 94. After the first frame, his fastball generally ranged from 88-91 mph, occasionally coming in a tick or two higher. Given that reports out of instructs last year and extended spring training had him throwing as fast as 98 mph, his velocity on Tuesday may have raised some eyebrows. However, Adam doesn't seem troubled, explaining that right now he's most concerned with location, rather than velocity.
"That [velocity is] pretty typical for me," he said. "At spring training, I felt like it was a little up, but I wasn't starting for five innings. So right now I'm more worried about spotting up than trying to rear back and throw it."
When asked about what he hopes to improve upon this season, Adam produced an honest checklist of priorities.
"I want to cut down on the walks from tonight," he said. "That's not like me usually. I want to command better. Just work ahead of batters, work on spotting my curveball and get better with my changeup so I can start having three quality pitches to get outs with instead of having to rely on one or two."
Even though his professional debut may have been a little underwhelming, Adam did gain the confidence of at least one very important person. Cougars manager Vance Wilson gushed about the young right-hander after the game.
"Jason Adam, that kid's going to be special," said Wilson. "We obviously think a lot of him."
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