Baseball: The right pitch

By Gus Bode

Saluki pitcher Cody Adams doesn’t look fearsome until he blows a two-seam fastball by an opposing hitter.

In his outing against Northern Illinois Saturday, Adams struck out a career-high nine batters and scattered seven hits and one run over eight innings as the SIU baseball team defeated the Huskies 5-1. Adams threw 6.2 innings allowing one unearned run while striking out eight Chippewa batters in the 4-2 win against Central Michigan Feb. 24.

As Adams’ strikeout numbers go up, his earned run average continues to dip, finishing February with a 0.09 ERA. He boasts a 4-0 record with 28 strikeouts and six walks this season.

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Saluki coach Dan Callahan said Adams’ recent string of dominance has been a byproduct of his attitude on the mound.

“Last year, he felt like establishing his presence was all about the radar gun. He would overthrow and when pitchers tend to overthrow, they fall apart,” Callahan said. “One of his biggest assets is the movement he creates on his two-seam fastball. To do that he can’t overthrow; he’s got to pitch and not try to muscle in the ball and when he does it right he can be pretty good.”

“Location has been the biggest difference for me this season.” – Cody Adams

This season has been much different than Adams’ 2006 campaign, when he made six starts and finished with a 4-4 record and a 4.60 ERA.

Adams cut down his ERA by more than three runs from last season and made the full-time jump into the starting rotation.

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Adams said the explanation for his success thus far has been simple.

“Location has been the biggest difference for me this season,” Adams said. “When I keep my pitches down, I’m more effective.”

To get out of big jams Adams said he mainly uses his two-seam fastball, which appears like a sinker at times. He grips the ball with his fingers on the narrow seams with a specific grip.

A deeper grip along with some extra pressure from the fingertips can cause the ball to sink before it pops the catcher’s mitt. Adams’ two-seamer moves down and away from lefties, forcing the hitter to drive the ball into the ground.

Adams’ arsenal contains more than one pitch, however. He said he has been working on improving his slider and changeup as well.

“I throw the two-seam 70-plus percent of the time, but I have used a four-seam fastball and a splitfinger fastball too,” Adams said. “I’ve been working on my second and third pitches and (pitching) coach (Tim) Dixon has helped me a lot with that.”

As the No. 1 starter in the Salukis’ rotation, Jordan Powell has let Adams get into his rearview mirror, but fans shouldn’t expect to see Adams taking the slot away from Powell anytime soon.

Powell has bounced back after some early season jitters to win his Friday start against Northern Illinois. He fanned eight in 6.1 innings allowing four hits and two unearned runs in the 9-4 SIU win.

“Cody Adams has had more quality starts and because Saturdays are huge games. If we don’t win Friday, you definitely want a guy in a position to win,” Callahan said. “Lately, he’s pitched how we know he’s capable of pitching and hopefully that’s what we continue to see.”

Despite their differing styles on the mound, Powell and Adams have found ways to make each other better. Powell said he hasn’t been surprised with how Adams has performed.

“If anything, we talk about which parts of the zone to hit and just throwing strikes, but he’s got a good mound presence out there to begin with,” Powell said. “He hasn’t changed much in the preseason because he worked extremely hard making his pitches better in the offseason.”

Adams and Powell room together on road trips in addition to being the go-to pitchers in the rotation. The duo has factored into the Salukis 9-4 start to the 2007 season, accounting of SIU’s wins.

Adams said he doesn’t plan to move around in the rotation because he likes where he is.

“I’m comfortable where I’m at because J.P. is a good pitcher and he just had a couple of rough outings, but he’s already turned it around,” Adams said. “When we stay together on road trips, he’ll give me a mini scouting report, so it helps having someone who’s been there before.”

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