Mike Adams doubted everything in the first months following the ninth surgery performed on his body. There was still persistent pain in his right shoulder, which was torn in three spots and repaired in late July. His strenuous workouts led to surgery No. 10 in October for a sports hernia.
"There were questions," Adams said. "Like, 'Was my career over?'"
He stood at his locker Thursday in the Phillies clubhouse at Citizens Bank Park and oozed optimism. These last two months, he said, were beyond encouraging. He is behind from his usual throwing program, but opening day remains a target. The setup man who is owed $7 million in 2014 believes he can help.
But Adams understands reality for a 35-year-old man with a dubious injury history.
"It's still not cleared yet, where everything is fine," he said. "I don't think it will ever be that way again."
Adams expects to throw off a mound sometime in mid-February. He said he typically starts throwing bullpen sessions in January, so he is behind. And Adams has a tendency to push himself, so the Phillies are not using specific dates as goals.
"I don't see any reason why I wouldn't be ready for opening day," Adams said. "At the same time, I'm not trying to set opening day as my final date. I don't want to be ready opening day and then all of a sudden I'm back on the DL come July or August. My goal is to make sure I can finish the season and pitch months of the season and into the postseason."
Adams said he could be ready with 10 spring outings. Whether he can recapture the talent that produced a 1.60 ERA in 145 games from 2010-11 is another question. The Phillies have adjusted their expectations for him.
When they signed Adams for two years and $12 million, they purchased one of the game's premiere eighth-inning relievers. Adams needed October 2012 surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome (a nerve problem) but Phillies doctors approved the addition.
His first season, which lasted 25 innings, was a total loss. Adams said he felt right for "maybe the first month." He went to the disabled list with a back problem. He threw 12 pitches in a spotless inning on June 19 and could not lift his right arm hours later.
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