Most Minor League pitchers take roughly the same route to the big leagues, working their way through the lower levels of an organization before reaching the upper levels, then hopefully ascending to the Majors.
The journey for Austin Adams, a member of the Columbus bullpen, was a little different. It began in the bullpen in his first pro season, then saw him become a starter before shoulder surgery moved him back to a relief role.
It didn't take long for the 27-year-old Alabama native to learn the difference between starting and relieving.
"Starting is easier on your body because you know every fifth day you're going to be on the mound," Adams said. "You can spend the four days getting your body prepared, whether it's working out or getting your running in or throwing a bullpen [session].
"In the bullpen, you have to be prepared to throw every day. If you don't throw, you have to be ready the next day. You have to lock in every day."
This season, Adams is thriving in the back end of the Clippers' bullpen. In 27 appearances, he's 2-1 with one save and a 2.57 ERA, having allowed 32 hits and seven walks while striking out 29 over 35 innings.
Adams begins the week with a string of 10 straight scoreless outings and has given up just one earned run since May 4.
"He's been working on fastball command, leveraging the ball down in the zone," Columbus manager Chris Tremie said. "He has a really strong arm, but he's working on doing an even better job of locating pitches and tightening his breaking ball."
Adams said starting while in the lower Minors helped him develop his fastball -- which can reach the high 90s -- as well as his slider.
"I didn't throw much in college, and in the lower Minors it was about throwing pitches for strikes," he said. "I'm only throwing two pitches in the bullpen, so it's been easier to locate two pitches than it is locating four."
Adams, who also has thrown a curveball and changeup as a pro, did not pitch in 2012 because of surgery that focused on his labrum and rotator cuff but also helped improve his biceps.
"The rehab process fixed everything I needed," Adams said. "Thomas Albert [the Indians rehab coordinator] did a great job working with me, and since I've been back there have been no setbacks."
Last season, Adams returned to Double-A Akron, where in 2011 he went 11-10 with a 3.77 ERA in 26 starts. But he shifted to the bullpen and rebounded nicely from the injury to go 3-2 with four saves and a 2.62 ERA while striking out 76 in 55 innings.
"[This season] his stuff is very similar [to 2011]," said Tremie, who also managed Adams the season before his surgery. "He might actually throw a little bit harder, although some of that may be because he's throwing shorter stints. He has made positive strides the last two or three months here."
As he has 29 strikeouts in 35 innings, Adams has also improved his command to a point where he has issued only seven walks. His 1.80 walks per nine innings is the second-best mark among IL relievers.
In short, Adams is happy he's returned to the bullpen.
"I feel very comfortable out of the bullpen," he said. "[Columbus pitching coach] Tony Arnold does a good job keeping us in rhythm and keeping us on schedule."
Homer happy: Charlotte leads the IL in home runs with 92, 18 more than any other team. The Knights have two players among the league leaders as Andy Wilkins and Matt Davidson are tied for fourth with 13. Charlotte has hit a whopping 41 homers in June, led by Jordan Danks with eight and Davidson with seven.
Triple Crown? Syracuse OF Steven Souza leads the league in all three "percentage" categories, including batting average with a .361 mark. He also has a league-best .451 on-base percentage and .584 slugging percentage. Souza, who has 15 stolen bases, boasts an impressive 1.036 OPS.
Sadler's strong return: Indianapolis RHP Casey Sadler began the season with the Indians before his promotion to Pittsburgh on June 1. He returned to the Tribe on June 12 and continued his fine work, winning two of his last three starts. On the season, Sadler is 8-1 with a 2.10 ERA in 11 starts. He's tied for fourth in the league in wins and ranks third in ERA. Over 68 2/3 innings, Sadler has allowed 75 baserunners to rank third among IL starters with 9.83 baserunners allowed per nine innings.
He said it: "We all recover different and have done different things over the past 10, 15 years, preparing for stuff like this. I'm on the tail end of my career, if you want to say that. I'll be 36 in August, but I feel like my body feels 25, getting a new elbow. Hopefully, it will extend my career." -- Lehigh Valley RHP Jason Marquis to The (Allentown) Morning Call. Marquis, who had Tommy John surgery last August, was back on a mound less than a year later and allowed only three hits and one run over six innings against Rochester on June 27.