BY SHANE HENNIGAN
MOOSIC — The original plan was for Chance Adams to make his Triple-A debut tonight in front of the home crowd at PNC Field.
But when the Yankees postponed their Saturday afternoon contest in the day’s early-morning hours because of rain, the 22-year-old realized that plan could change — keeping in mind the doubleheader and the possibility the Yankees might call up an arm.
That arm happened to be Chad Green, who was scheduled to start Sunday. Shortly thereafter, Adams was informed he’d be getting the ball one day earlier than anticipated.
One less day of preparation didn’t matter, however, as Adams looked like his familiar self, going five shutout innings of two-hit ball with six strikeouts and three walks on his way to the win in the RailRiders’ 6-2 victory over Syracuse at NBT Bank Stadium.
“You could definitely see that the hitters were looking for certain pitches sometimes,” Adams said of what he thought was the biggest difference between Double-A.”In the previous levels, I got a lot of my strikeouts swinging. But (Sunday), I got (half) looking. It’s just a little different and you could definitely tell they’ve got good approaches. It’s definitely a step up.”
Adams joined the RailRiders as the Yankees’ No. 2 pitching prospect according to Baseball America.
The right-hander started the year back at Trenton and showed shades of his 2016 self, one that saw him go 13-1 with a 2.33 ERA between the Thunder and High-A Tampa, good enough to earn him the Yankees’ Kevin Lawn Award as their minor league “Pitcher of the Year.”
While he’s got three quality pitches in his fastball, slider and curveball along with a developing changeup, the one thing that’s plagued Adams is his command, despite a career 21-2 record and 1.95 ERA since being drafted in the fifth round of from Dallas Baptist University in 2015.
Adams has a career average of 2.9 walks per nine innings, which includes 3.9 at Trenton this year. He’s failed to go six innings in five of his starts this season.
On Sunday, he threw 97 pitches (57 strikes) but needed 27 to get through the first.
“We’re doing the best we can to make him understand that he needs to throw less pitches early in the game,” manager Al Pedrique said. “Try to work ahead in the count and once you have the hitters with two strikes, try to put them away not only by striking them out but by making them swing the bat. I thought he threw the ball much better in the last 2½ innings in my opinion.”
After giving up a single and two consecutive walks to load the bases, Adams retired 13 of the final 15 Chiefs he faced, including a pair of two-strikeout innings in the third and fourth, before giving way to the bullpen.
“I’ll tell you what I want,” Adams said. “I want to go a little deeper. That’s kind of been my goal this season. Make my changeup better and pitch deeper into games.
“I’m trying to be more of a starter rather than having the bullpen go like four innings after every time I come out.”
Even though his Triple-A career is just a few days old, his teammates already know that there’s a good chance Adams will put them in position to win every time he takes the mound, which is expected to happen again Friday when the RailRiders open a three-game set against Rochester.
“First couple innings on Sunday, he made pitches when he needed to in order to get out of them,” catcher Kyle Higashioka said. “Obviously, he went five scoreless. That’s kind of what I’ve come to expect from him. Scoreless outings.”
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