The second time through the Texas League was supposed to be the charm for Jason Adam. And even though he still isn't putting up the numbers he'd like, the learning experience is proving to be the biggest thing he's taking away from his return to Double-A.
Adam recorded seven strikeouts and scattered five hits over seven scoreless innings Friday night in Double-A Northwest Arkansas' 3-1 win at Springfield.
"It's all about learning in the Minor Leagues, as frustrating as that is as a competitor," said Adam, who lowered his ERA to 5.14. "I want to dominate every single batter I face in my career, but I know there will be good games and bad games and everything in between. But it's all about learning how to compete so that one day I can dominate at the Major League level. The goal is to minimize those struggles.
"There's definitely a comfortability factor. I've seen them and they've seen me, but I believe good pitching beats good hitting. My goal isn't to be a lifetime Texas Leaguer, but it is a little bit easier the second time around."
The Royals' eighth-ranked prospect walked two batters and threw 59 of 98 pitches for strikes in extending his scoreless streak to 12 innings. He allowed three doubles and two singles and worked out of the stretch in six of seven frames. The only clean inning Adam (4-8) worked was the seventh, when he threw only nine pitches. He did not allow a runner to reach third base.
"I felt pretty good out there, but there are always improvements you can make," the 22-year-old right-hander said. "I walked one guy on four pitches, which I don't like, but I felt good on the mound. The slider was working and I felt like I had decent command of my fastball. I was throwing a lot of curveballs for strikes and the changeup was on as well, so I felt pretty confident with all four pitches.
"I kept attacking down in the zone and I was getting ground balls. I got stronger as I went. I left a couple pitches up in the first inning, but after I got through the second inning, I was able to progress."
Now in his fourth year of pro ball, Adam is looking to solve the Texas League for the second consecutive year. Selected by the Royals in the fifth round of the 2010 Draft, he went 8-11 with a 5.19 ERA in 26 starts with the Naturals in 2013. He struck out 126 batters and issued 54 walks over 144 innings.
For the 6-foot-4 Kansas native, the process of returning to Arvest Ballpark is all about learning how to read hitters.
'This year, it's immensely easier," said Adam, who keeps a notebook detailing the tendencies of all the batters he faces. "It comes with experience, but it's also an acquired thing. After you release the pitch, you have to focus immediately on the hitter to see if they're opening their hips.
"You can look at how they react to your breaking ball and whether they jump back. Or if you throw a pitch on the inner third and they lean back, they're not looking for the pitch inside. You can read the body movements of the hitters. Those four games [when you're not starting] are huge. When you're in the seats charting, you get a good view of the hitters. It's easier than when you're facing them."
Designated hitter Max Ramirez supported Adam with a two-run homer, a double and two runs scored, while Andrew Triggs worked a scoreless ninth inning to earn his 13th save.
Springfield starter Kyle Hald (7-3) allowed one run on five hits and four walks while striking out two over seven innings.