Adams pays tribute to coach taken by cancer

ARLINGTON, Texas — Texas Rangers reliever Mike Adams pitched the eighth inning Sunday night with a heavy heart and the letters “AK” on his cap.

The letters were in tribute to former San Diego Padres bullpen coach Darrel Akerfelds, who died Sunday from pancreatic cancer. His clubhouse nickname was “Ak.”

Akerfelds had been the Padres’ bullpen coach since 2001. Adams pitched for the Padres from 2008 until he was acquired by the Rangers at midseason last year.

“I had a lot of thoughts while warming up and before the game,” Adams said. “Once I found out, it was kind of something I thought about all day. Even when I was in the game, it was kind of hard to block that out.”

Akerfelds pitched five seasons in the majors himself, including 1989 with the Rangers. The Rangers acknowledged Akerfelds’ passing during pregame ceremonies.

“Ak was just like an uncle to me,” Adams said. “Everybody that came through San Diego through the bullpen, it’s a tough loss for us.”

Akerfelds was diagnosed in December 2010 and was still with the team for a while this season.

“I’m just glad to know he’s not suffering anymore because he had it rough this past 18 months or whatever it was,” Adams said. “Knowing what kind of person he is and seeing what he went through and how he went about it, it’s tough.”

Adams gave up a double to the Rockies’ Todd Helton during his one inning of work, but got a strikeout and two flyball outs. He protected a four-run lead in what was eventually a 4-2 Rangers victory.

“Mike is a pro,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “I know he was feeling something, but he went out there and did his job. I’m very sorry for Akerfelds’ family.”

Follow Keith Whitmire on Twitter: @Keith_Whitmire