PHOENIX - Two months ago, Mike Adams was 7 months' removed from shoulder surgery and still concerned about how much he had left in his right arm.
After throwing his first bullpen since surgery on Feb. 27, 2 weeks into spring training, Adams said he was "nervous," "worried" and aware that "every pitch could be the last pitch" of his career.
But Adams has made significant strides in the 8 weeks since. Although he served up a game-tying home run to Adrian Gonzalez in the seventh inning of Thursday's game at Dodger Stadium, Adams was also able to rebound and get each of the next five hitters out.
Of the seven batters he faced, Adams got three strikeouts and two ground-ball outs. He needed 22 pitches to get through two innings, his first two-inning outing since June 6, 2010.
"I had to pick up the team and the bullpen - I gave up the lead," Adams said yesterday in Phoenix before the Phillies played the Diamondbacks. "When I came in, they asked me how I felt, if I could go back out. They wanted me honest opinion. I told them, 'Let's do it.' It's an accomplishment."
In his return from shoulder surgery, Adams has been able to check off more than a couple of milestones. He was encouraged by how his arm responded last week, when he warmed up or pitched in a game for 5 straight days.
If he can return to being close to the setup man the Phillies thought they were getting when they signed him to a 2-year, $12 million deal two winters ago, Adams would be a big boost to a bullpen in need.
The Phillies bullpen entered the series with Arizona with a 5.48 ERA, the second highest in baseball and highest in the National League. The coaching staff has especially had trouble finding capable righthanded relievers, with three of the four righties who began the season in the bullpen now pitching at Triple A Lehigh Valley. Only closer Jonathan Papelbon remains from that foursome.
"I'm really impressed with his command and his quality of pitches," manager Ryne Sandberg said of Adams. "He's been down in the zone. Looks real tough on righthanded hitters for sure, with good sliders . . . From what I've seen, some hitters have had a hard time picking him up. [Hanley] Ramirez is one. He didn't even swing the bat."
Heading into last night, Adams had appeared in only three games since bring activated from the DL, but the early results are strong. He has allowed one run on one hit - Gonzalez' home run - to the 13 batters he's faced, while striking out three and walking none.
He's come a long way since that February morning when he was very uncertain about the future.
"From that day until today, it's complete night and day," Adams said. "Every time I go out on the mound, I'm not worried about how I'm going to feel. I'm not worried about, 'Is this pitch going to hurt?' There are some days when I might feel a little cranky or bad, but the majority of the days, I feel great. The difference between then and now is 100 percent.
"I'm very much grateful. When you have one shoulder surgery, it's a coin flip. When you have that second one, as badly as my injury was, I don't want to say it's a miracle, but close to. I count my blessings every day."
Ruling on field stands
A representative at Coors Field had the ball authenticated and passed along to Ryan Howard before the Phillies left Denver on Easter Sunday. But it turns out the ball won't be a souvenir from a historic day for the Phillies first baseman.
After reviewing the play, Major League Baseball ruled yesterday that the official scorer's decision was correct: Howard's seventh-inning, run-scoring hit against the Rockies was a single and an error on the rightfielder, and not a double. The Phillies asked for the league to look at the play, because a double would have given Howard a cycle.
No Phillies player has hit for the cycle since David Bell in 2004. No Phillies player has hit for the cycle on the road since Johnny Callison in 1963.
On the play, Howard hit a soft, sinking popup that fell in front of Rockies rightfielder Brandon Barnes. After the ball dropped in, it sneaked under Barnes glove, allowing Howard to take second base.
On Sunday, Howard was asked whether he would blow up the ball if it turned out to be a single, and not the baseball that completed a cycle.
"Nah, I'm going to keep it," Howard said. "I still got four hits. I'm going to take it and keep it as a memento, as an almost. It will still be special, anyway."
Carlos Ruiz was back in the Phillies lineup for the fifth straight game after a torrid four-game series in Los Angeles. After knocking in the go-ahead run in Thursday's win at Dodger Stadium, Ruiz finished the series 7-for-14 with a home run, a triple, six RBI and six total extra-base hits. Ruiz had entered the series with no RBI and four extra-base hits in his first 14 games of the season. "I think it was a matter of time," Ryne Sandberg said of Ruiz' breakout. "He's a quality hitter." Ruiz saw his batting average rise from .204 to .270 in the series, and his OPS jump from .613 to .871 . . . Cole Hamels' second start of the season will come in the first game back from the Phillies' current road trip, when they host the Mets Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park. Hamels will be opposed by fellow lefthander Jonathon Niese (1-2, 2.45) . . . Triple A Lehigh Valley outfielder Tyson Gillies was suspended three games for reportedly damaging the team's bat rack on Thursday. Gillies went 0-for-5 with four strikeouts. He entered yesterday hitting .184 and has hit only .214 in 72 games at Triple A in his career. Gillies, 25, came to the Phillies in the 2010 trade that sent Cliff Lee to Seattle.