Tim Adleman’s professional baseball journey is relatively short for Triple-A pitchers with past big league experience. However, this ride has been jammed packed with ups and down and has traveled the entire globe.
After playing the 2017 season in Korea, and a second stint in Independent Ball, Adleman has found himself back having success at the Triple-A level. This time with the Detroit Tigers organization. Being on the doorstep to once again realizing his ultimate dream, Adleman said that his motivation is to prove it to himself that he can still make it happen.
“I don’t think that I need to prove anything to anybody,” Adleman said. “But I want to prove it to myself that I belong up there. I feel confident in my abilities, and just because I went over to Korea and came back here, it doesn’t mean that I can’t pitch in the big leagues. That is how I have felt since I have been back. Obviously, going out every outing to get better and show my value, that I can still help a Major League team. That has been the goal.”
For Adleman, this journey began at Georgetown University, where he was a four-year performer. After completing his collegiate experience, Adleman was a 24th round pick by the Baltimore Orioles in 2010. After pitching fairly well in his first professional season, Adleman struggled in his second in High-A to the tune of a 6.01 ERA and a 1.664 WHIP. Allowing a H/9 of 12.5, Adleman was released by the Orioles and resurfaced in Independent Ball, pitching for both the Lincoln Saltdogs and the El Paso Diablos in 2012. For so many players, this is where the dream ends. This was not the case for Adleman. He returned to the same circuit in 2013 with the New Jersey Jackals in 2013 and found something. In 40 games, Adleman posted a 1.46 ERA and his K/9 jumped to over 12. Even better news, his H/9 fell to a career low 5.8.
While there is a stigma that Independent Ball goes not carry the same talent as Minor League Baseball, Adleman said that there are a lot of similarities and the talent level is always that far off.
“(Playing Independent Ball) is very similar (to Minor League Baseball) in a lot of facets with travel and the facilities,” Adleman said. “I don’t think there is a huge drop off in talent. It is a little sporadic, there are teams here that are better, but I played on some teams that would compete with some Minor League affiliates. A lot of those guys had their Major League time, or Minor League time. They are just as hungry as some of the guys here to get back to the Minor Leagues or get back to the big leagues.”
In 2014, the Cincinnati Reds took a flyer on the right-hander and he spent most of the season in Double-A. After a strong 2014 season at the level, he spent the entire 2015 there as well. He carried that momentum over and was just as strong. This earned him a promotion to Triple-A for the 2016 season. Adleman’s timing could not have been better either. The Reds struggled with performance on the field, with some of the worst pitching numbers in the history of baseball. They also struggled with injuries, and on May 1, 2016, Adleman became the 18,710th player to have his dreams realized, as he debuted as a big leaguer.
“It was a great feeling (to be a big leaguer),” Adleman said. “It was a great feeling that the work that I had done was rewarded. There are plenty of guys in this game who work hard their whole careers, and unfortunately don’t get an opportunity because timing doesn’t work out, or there is a really good player ahead of them. To be able to have that hard work pay off was a great feeling, and I was fortunate it worked out for me.”
Between two seasons, Adleman worked in 43 games with the Reds, including 33 starts. He led all Reds starters in innings and strikeouts in 2017. After being a solid contributor for the Reds, Adleman earned a $1.05 million contract, which the righty just couldn’t pass up.
On the field, Adleman said that the tempo in Korea is a little bit slower. He said that there is a break after the fifth inning to re-chalk the lines. He also said that the strike zone is a little bit smaller and it is definitely more of a hitter’s league over there. Overall, the quality of defense isn’t as good over there, with some exceptions. However, the biggest struggle was the culture differences.
“I knew that it would be different when I went over there, but I don’t think I was prepared with how different it was going to be,” Adleman said. “It took a little while to get used to everything. Like anything else, some new things can be difficult at first, but once you get the hang of it, it’s not too bad.”
After pitching his one season in Korea in 2018, Adleman returned to the Reds on a Spring Training deal this season. He was released before camp broke and returned to Independent Ball and the Long Island Ducks. After posting a 1.64 ERA in three games with the team, the Tigers inked Adleman to a Minor League deal and that returns us to present day. The journey has been a long one for Adleman and not even close to as paved as for some. He said that doubt had crept in during some of the dark times as well. However, he was able to maintain confident and ultimately he would not change a thing.
“It is a tough road, even if you are a first round pick, much less a senior sign out of college that goes the Indy Ball route,” Adleman said. “As a player, you are always looking for that confirmation that, ‘I am confident in my ability and I think I can do it.’ I also need someone else to believe I can do it as well and give me that opportunity. There is a lot in this game that is out of your control. It is tough sometimes to keep yourself in your own corner and believe you are good enough to pitch at the level you want to get to.”