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'Nice pitch, kid': Hometown pitcher throws scoreless inning in debut for Royals

Royals' Jason Adam makes major-league debut against Tigers

Kansas City Royals relief pitcher Jason Adam, a Blue Valley Northwest high school graduate, made his major-league debut in the ninth inning at Kauffman Stadium on May 5, 2018. The Tigers won, 3-2.
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Kansas City Royals relief pitcher Jason Adam, a Blue Valley Northwest high school graduate, made his major-league debut in the ninth inning at Kauffman Stadium on May 5, 2018. The Tigers won, 3-2.

Royals rookie Jason Adam strolled off the mound on Saturday afternoon, his first major-league strikeout under his belt, and finally felt the knots in his stomach unclench.

The 26-year-old pitcher from Overland Park, who’s cut a winding path to debuting for his hometown team, worked a scoreless ninth inning in the Royals’ 3-2 loss to the Tigers.

He struck out Tigers third baseman Jeimer Canderlario on a 97 mph fastball. He worked around a walk and Nicholas Castellanos’ third extra-base hit of the game, receiving a boost when catcher Salvador Perez caught Leonys Martin trying to steal second base on Candelario’s punch out and when veteran Victor Martinez rolled over a low fastball for a ground-ball out.

To four batters, Adam threw a total of 19 pitches. He recorded three outs.

As Adam retreated to the Royals’ dugout, Martinez stopped him to say, “Nice pitch, kid.”

“It was a good first outing,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “First major-league strikeout. I was hoping we could get him a win.”

What Adam received instead seemed equally significant. He’d worked for nearly eight years to make it back to the field at Kauffman Stadium. Adam, a Blue Valley Northwest graduate, hadn’t even returned to watch a game in years, since well before a series of four elbow surgeries forced him to miss the 2015 and ’16 seasons.

He referred to his journey as a redemption tour.

It started in Tulsa a few weeks ago. He’d pitched poorly there last season, he said, but this time he struck out five batters in 1 2/3 innings for Class AA Northwest Arkansas on April 22.

Later, he learned he would join Class AAA Omaha on a road trip. The Storm Chasers were in Colorado Springs, Colo. — the same place Adam was when the Royals traded him to the Twins in 2014.

And when he traipsed across the grounds here during batting practice on Friday, it was the first time he’d done so since he was selected by the Royals in the fifth round of the 2010 draft.

Whether Adam earns a long-term spot in the Royals' bullpen remains to be seen. The relief corps still faces an uphill battle to improve the 6.35 ERA it posted during the first 15 games of the season. It has retained the moniker of worst in the majors, now sporting a 5.93 ERA.

Royals starting pitcher Jason Hammel gave up three runs in the first inning to the Detroit Tigers in what ended up as a 3-2 loss for the Royals on May 5, 2018

As the Royals try to knock that number down, Adam's velocity and plus-grade curveball might provide a temporary solution as they await the return of Justin Grimm (back stiffness) and Nathan Karns (right elbow inflammation) from the disabled list.

For one night, at least, that decision won't loom over Adam's head. He saw his tour reach its height with an outing on Saturday that garnered praise from a 16-year veteran in Martinez and his own 63-year-old manager.

“It was just a surreal moment,” Adam said. “I had a lot of people tell me to really take it in on your jog in, and I did. It’s hard to explain.

“But then, after the walk, I was like, ‘Better lock this back in.’”

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