When the Tampa Bay Rays signed Jason Adam as a free agent in March, a week after the lockout ended, they brought on a right-handed pitcher who toiled for three teams the past four years and who had yet to experience a full non-virus shortened major league season.
Not only has the 31-year-old Adam been a mainstay in the Rays’ bullpen, but he has been one of the most dominant relievers in the game. As such, the native of Omaha, Neb. is having a blast.
“It is really exciting,” he said, prior to Sunday’s game against the Royals at Tropicana Field. “The guys in this clubhouse are so much fun. It is probably the most fun season I have had. The guys, the coaches, everybody and everything has been great. The camaraderie is awesome, everybody is a winner and we have fun going about it. What more could you ask for?”
It is hard to ask for more out of Adam, whose performance through 53 appearances (heading into Monday) has been very impressive by any measure. He heads into the series against the visiting Angels not having scored upon in his last 12 appearances. The streak has lowered his ERA to 1.09 while sporting a WHIP that is an equally eye-opening 0.62. Among pitchers who have logged at least 30 innings, Adam’s .397 opponent OPS leads the American League and is second in the majors.
“They have laid out a great plan and my job is to go there and try to execute it,” he said, noting how pitching coach Kyle Snyder makes things as simple as possible so each pitcher can be as effective as possible. “Some nights it’s easy and some nights it’s really hard. That’s baseball and I think that’s some of the beauty of the game. Overall, it has been a really fun year and I am thankful for it.”
Earlier this season, Adam credited more frequent use of his changeup for much of his success. It is a pitch that he continues to utilize effectively along with a four-seam fastball and a slider that has foiled many an opposing batter.
“He controls the count so well,” manager Kevin Cash said recently. “His stuff is really good. I think that with the deception he creates, you can tell hitters just don’t pick up the baseball very well when they have those late reactions to the breaking ball he throws, especially as a righty when they are getting out of the way of it. They are just not picking it up that quickly.”
Adam’s role coming out of the Rays’ bullpen has increased as the season has progressed. He was frequently summoned to come on in the sixth and seventh innings earlier on. Thanks to his effectiveness and debilitating injuries to Andrew Kittredge (Tommy John surgery), JP Feyereisen (shoulder, could return mid-September) and Pete Fairbanks, who missed the season’s first three months before joining the team in mid-July, Adam has been utilized more frequently in the eighth and ninth innings. His seven saves (eight opportunities) are tied with lefty Colin Poche for the team lead, and he is 3-for-3 so far in August.
Regardless of when he is called upon, Adam is happy to be a card-carrying member of a bullpen he enjoys being a part of.
“It’s an electric bullpen and everybody that steps up on the mound is elite, with elite stuff and a great attitude,” he said of a group that has logged an MLB-high 505 innings. “There are a lot of egos in sports and we don’t have any of that here. We don’t care if we are throwing in the second inning or ninth inning. We just want to do our jobs so that we can win a ballgame, go in the (clubhouse) to celebrate and do it again the next game.”
That’s been happening a lot for a team that heads into play Monday night in the midst of a wild-card race that changes daily. Although Adam experienced the postseason with the 2020 Cubs, he did not appear in a wild-card sweep at the hands of the Marlins.
“We were done in two games and I didn’t even sniff the mound,” he said.
Hence, appearing in a playoff game would be something special. Not that he is getting ahead of himself as each of the Rays’ remaining 42 games are likely to be crucial.
“You grow up dreaming about playing in the big leagues, obviously, and with that you picture yourself in the playoffs and the World Series,” he said. “That would be an absolute dream come true, but we have a lot of games left and we need to take care of business day in and day out for the next month and a half.”
In all likelihood, Adam will continue to handle his business just fine.