ST. LOUIS -- Amid the Royals' disappointing 14-33 start entering Tuesday's game against the Cardinals, there actually have been some pleasant surprises, such as rookie relievers Brad Keller and Tim Hill, and the continued development of outfielder Jorge Soler.And another surprise is impressing manager Ned Yost and his coaching staff:
ST. LOUIS -- Amid the Royals' disappointing 14-33 start entering Tuesday's game against the Cardinals, there actually have been some pleasant surprises, such as rookie relievers Brad Keller and Tim Hill, and the continued development of outfielder Jorge Soler.
And another surprise is impressing manager Ned Yost and his coaching staff: Right-hander Jason Adam, who made his debut on May 5 and through six outings posted a 3.52 ERA.
Adam's story is now well-documented, how he was drafted by the Royals, traded to the Twins, endured four elbow surgeries, and at age 26 found his way back to his hometown team, the Royals.
Though Adam gave up a home run in relief on Monday night to Matt Carpenter, he also struck out four of the five hitters he faced in the I-70 Series opener. With each outing, Adam is validating to himself he belongs here, and that his 96-mph heater and plus-curveball can play at this level.
"I know my stuff can play here," Adam said. "But in the Minors, you can out-stuff guys. That's not the case here. You have to be aware of pitch selection and location, too."
Adam found that out the hard way with Carpenter, who was heater-hunting and jumped on a first-pitch fastball and blasted it into the seats in right.
"I gave it to him right down the middle," Adam said. "If I executed it better it's a pop-fly out. But middle-middle doesn't play up here."
Yet Adam didn't get down on himself, as he admits he used to over such failures in the Minors. The agony of four surgeries taught him, he said, to put baseball in perspective.
"It's still baseball up here," Adam said. "But I think I've got my priorities in order now and it's not worshipping baseball. I think I've learned there are bigger things in life than baseball. I'm still pouring everything I got into baseball, but at the end of the day there are bigger things in the world.
"I used to make baseball a lot bigger than it needed to be. It's still huge and it's fun, but it's not my life. It's a part of my life, but it's not my God. I think that just relieves the pressure for me. You can play free that way.
"I mean, I hate giving up home runs. But I go back and look at the film and see what I did wrong and that's it. I don't dwell on it anymore."
Not that Adam doesn't step back and appreciate the moment.
"Every once in a while it just hits me, like, 'Wow, I'm in the big leagues,'" he said. "Like here I am in Busch Stadium. This is the big leagues."
But Adam has a life outside of baseball that means the most to him. His wife, Kelsey, is expecting their first child, a girl, on June 24.
"Coming out hot," Adam said, smiling.
It's that balance of family and baseball that keeps Adam composed, he said. And that's something Yost has noticed with Adam on the mound.
"I see what a rookie's composure is when they step on the mound, to see if they can handle it," Yost said. "There's been no trepidation, no wide-eyed, no vibration when he steps on the mound. He just steps on the mound and attacks.
"I've seen guys in the past get a little nervy. Been none of that with him. Now it's just about giving him assignments. You're getting evaluated all the time. The better you are, the more high-leverage assignments you get.
"He's been trending up."
Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.