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Adenhart ahead of the curve

Williamsport graduate rebounds to become hot Angels prospect

Williamsport graduate rebounds to become hot Angels prospect

January 12, 2007|by BOB PARASILITI

In his senior year at Williamsport High School, life threw Nick Adenhart a curve.

Now, 2 1/2 years later, he's throwing one back ... and has the start of a budding career because of it.

Adenhart was known nationally for his fastball while pitching for the Wildcats. He was a fireballing righthander who was earmarked to be the top pick in the 2004 amateur draft.

It all changed in late May of that season when he ripped a ligament in his elbow. Gone was the glory of being a No. 1 pick, but growing from it is the recognition of being able to throw his No. 2.

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"When I got hurt as a senior, it put things in a whirlwind," said Adenhart on Thursday to about 60 members of the Tri-State Ravens Nest No. 12 during their meeting at Tony's Restaurant. "It's been a long way back."

Before Adenhart had the chance of being drafted, he was dealing with Tommy John surgery to repair the tear. Although it was one of the most uncertain times in his life, it helped make him the pitcher he is today.

Adenhart is one of the prized jewels of the Los Angeles Angels farm system. Los Angeles took a risk, making Adenhart its 14th selection in that draft and sticking with him through the entire process.

He paid the Angels back by making a splash on the Class-A level, pitching for both Cedar Rapids in the Midwest League and Rancho Cucamonga in the California League for a combined 15-4 record with 150 strikeouts in 158 innings.

"A lot of the healing process is the waiting," Adenhart said, showing his scar from the surgery and describing the procedure to the crowd. "You are just waiting for your body to heal. I was throwing again in five months, but I wasn't back to a mound for another seven."

In the process, Adenhart had the chance to realize his ability to become a complete pitcher.

He was able to build on his body, turning his 6-foot-2, 180-pound frame from high school into 6-3 1/2 and 205.

He took the opportunity to start from scratch to get his mechanics in order. He admitted working with a pitching coach to get his pitching package together.

"In high school, I was throwing across my body," Adenhart said. "My stepdad and I were going to work with my mechanics and then we figured we'd wait because I was about to cross over from high school to professional. But then it was too late."

The entire process allowed Adenhart to bring out two of his little-known pitches - the curve and the changeup. They have paid off in his development.

"In high school, so much is on how hard you throw," Adenhart said. "The change and the curve are overlooked. A lot of high school pitchers who get scouted don't get the chance to show it off."

He gets it now.

The curve has become his out pitch - the one that he turns to when he is going for the strikeout. And in essence, it is the pitch that is moving him through the Angels' system and giving him a reputation across baseball.

"My curve is a good pitch," he said. "The Angels seem to like it. They rated it the best one in the organization. I like it a lot. I'm getting a lot of strikeouts with it. "

The curveball was something Adenhart always possessed, but was hidden because it wasn't needed much during his high school career. Still, he had a modest introduction to the pitch.

"I learned to throw the curve when I was a kid in the backyard when we were playing Wiffle Ball," he said. "You had to be able to do something with it to win. That gave me the feel and the touch."

It's not Wiffle Ball anymore. Adenhart has been invited to his second straight major league spring training camp with the Angels. He is now throwing 97 mph and looks to be destined for Double-A Arkansas in the Texas League.

That's just two short steps from the majors, but there is still a long way to go.

"I feel like twice the pitcher I was in high school. I have more command and knowledge," he said. "I've learned so much, but I'm still a long way away. There are so many situations in baseball, there is always something to learn."

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