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05/20/09 8:46 PM ET

Adams set to start rehab assignment

Padres eager to see top reliever return to action

SAN DIEGO -- Bud Black, manager of the Padres, wasn't kidding Wednesday when he said reliever Mike Adams "might have been our best reliever last season."

Yes, that on a staff that included Major League career saves leader Trevor Hoffman (30 saves) as well as eighth-inning specialist Heath Bell, who was one of the best at his job last season.

Adams, who had surgery to repair a small tear in the labrum of his shoulder on Oct. 17, could well be back in the Padres' bullpen before the All-Star break. On Thursday, he'll make his first Minor League rehabilitation start with Double-A San Antonio.

"He's probably right on time," said Grady Fuson, the Padres' vice president of scouting and player development. "The good thing is there has not been any setbacks along the way for him."

Black said Wednesday that Adams will likely make upwards of "seven, eight, nine appearances" for the Missions or possibly another Minor League team in the system.

But, to be clear, there will be no rush.

"He'll have to be tested in back-to-back [games], two-inning [stints]," Black said. "He'll have to pass all the tests a reliever does in spring."

If and when Adams does return, the Padres hope he can replicate his breakout season of 2008 when he started in Triple-A Portland and ended the season as one of Black's most reliable bullpen options.

Adams was promoted on May 22 and proceeded to post the most strikeouts for National League relievers (74) from that date on, as well as the sixth-best ERA (2.48). He limited opposing batters to a .209 average and earned the trust of Black along the way.

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.