Adam Warren and the unnecessity of two long relievers

Yanks no match for Moore as Rays take opener
Cashman discusses decision to trade for Vernon Wells

When the season opened, the Yankees made a point of carrying relievers capable of throwing multiple innings in an outing. That meant Adam Warren and Shawn Kelley got the nod over one-inning guys like David Aardsma and Josh Spence. Phil Hughes started the year on the DL and carrying bullpeners who could provide length for the first few weeks made sense. No team wants to wear out their pitching staff in April.

Now that we’re three weeks into the season, the need for multiple multi-inning relievers — and multiple long relievers, especially — isn’t as great. Ivan Nova remains a drain on the bullpen every five days, but otherwise the trio of CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte have shown the ability to pitch deep into the game each time out while Phil Hughes can do it on occasion. Sure, having a bunch of relievers who can throw multiple innings at a time is a nice luxury, but it’s no longer a necessity. Quality over quantity should be the focal point when it comes bullpen innings now.

Since his 5.1-inning appearance in relief of Kuroda in the second game of the season — 19 days ago now — right-hander Adam Warren has thrown a total of three innings and 42 pitches. Two of those innings came during a blowout win against the Indians, the other yesterday. He hasn’t warmed up on any other occasion during the last ten days, as our Bullpen Workload page shows. It’s a dead roster spot, especially since Joe Girardi seems to prefer David Phelps in long relief situations. The only way Warren gets into a game right now is a super mop-up situation, a blowout or extra innings.


Phelps hasn’t pitched well early on (6.23 ERA and 3.87 FIP), and it’s not just these last two appearances. The four shutout innings against Baltimore last week is the only one of his five outings in which he hasn’t allowed a run. He is a better pitcher than what he’s shown so far, but he needs to figure some things out. It happens. He should work on those things in low-leverage situations though, not the situations he’s seen recently. It should happen in the innings currently designated for Warren, basically. It’s the bullpen circle of life, especially for a young reliever: if you stink for two or three weeks you lose some responsibility.

Ideally, I think the Yankees should adjust their bullpen situation by sending Warren down to Triple-A and replacing him with a power reliever who can miss bats in the middle innings between the starter and the Joba Chamberlain/David Robertson setup crew. Cody Eppley doesn’t fit the bill — he’s been awful since the start of Spring Training anyway — but Mark Montgomery sure makes a lot of sense for that role. The right-hander has 15 strikeouts and one walk in eight Triple-A innings so far after whiffing 99 in 64.1 innings last summer.

Because Phelps threw 62 pitches on Sunday and will be out of commission for at least one more game (likely two), holding onto Warren for another few days makes sense. Once Phelps is ready to go though, I think he should be put into a more traditional long reliever role while Warren is swapped out in favor of someone who can miss bats. Montgomery is the obvious candidate but not the only option. Maybe Preston Claiborne or Sam Demel is better suited to help the team right now, who knows. Either way, the idea is to optimize the bullpen by replacing the seldom-used second long man with a more useful middle reliever who can miss some bats.

Yanks no match for Moore as Rays take opener
Cashman discusses decision to trade for Vernon Wells
  • TheOneWhoKnocks

    Yankees always seem to wait too long to make these moves but I understand there are a lot of things I don’t necessarily worry myself with like service time and 40 man spots and minor league options.

    I’d like to see them call up Montgomery and really any RH bat to replace Francisco. We have been punchless against lefties and even if it means hoping to ride a 2 week hot streak from someone like Neal or Almonte, it’s a shot in the arm that we need right now.

  • Need Pitching & Hitting (but mostly hitting)

    Maybe another possibility would be to demote Phelps to work things out as a starter in AAA, preparing him to possibly replace Nova in the rotation if Nova continues to struggle.

    • Drew

      Yeah I could definitely get behind that. I also think just having a guy sit there and be unused, is especially hurting his potential performance. Either use Warren or get someone who you will. I want to get over it, but I still wonder why the hell Aardsma was cut for someone who they aren’t even going to use. It’s not that Aardsma was CY Young or anything but I think he could have been a useful relived.

  • Eddard

    Joe also needs to stop taking relievers out to play matchup in a tie ballgame. Joba was throwing 98 and blowing hitters away in Toronto. We can assume he pitched an inning, right? 2/3 of an inning since he was lifted for Boone Logan vs a LHB. The faster you burn through your effective relievers the quicker you get to the ineffective ones.

    Anyone who was watching that game would tell you Joba was dominating. And the very next day Phelps was brought into a high leverage situation and not Joba. Joe needs to stop looking through his binder and start watching the games.

    • JRod

      Joe does have a history of riffling through his pen until he finds the guy that sucks on that given day. I think he’s gotten marginally more patient over the years, but he almost always goes to the binder and match-ups, and never rides the hot hand for an extra couple of batters. As Mike notes, he hasn’t used Warren anyway, so why not send him down and get another short guy, because that’s how Joe works it anyway.

  • DInnings

    Why not send down Phelps or Nova and call up Montgomery?

    I think Phelps is better suited as a starter. The Yanks should either replace Nova with Phelps or have Phelps on standby to replace Nova. This way Phelps and Nova still start.

    • trr

      IDK…it seems that these 2 are less and less likely to ne involved in our long term plans.

  • greg

    nova might be an effetive reliever he seems to have upper 90s heat when he needs it. Maybe we have seen enough as a starter, time to see if we can get any use out of his arm.

    • trr

      control issues, though…

  • mitch

    I know this would never happen, but i’d send down Kelley and Warren and replace them with Montgomery and an extra position player.

  • Robinson Tilapia

    Montgomery’s an option. Cedeno’s an option. Spence is an option. None are on the 40-man.

    Eppley, Rondon, and Betances are the only guys on the 40-man who appear to be options. The team has chosen to go slow with Rondon, and I don’t think they make the adjustment with Betances until he gets a few tries at it in AAA.

    Do I care if, say, Cody Eppley, gets exposed to waivers? Not really, and it’s pretty inevitable when you look at guys returning from injury that he will be at some point soon. With all the spots you need, soon, replacing Eppley with Montgomery means you wind up making a decision on whether a Mesa or Joseph, or even a Warren or Betances, is worthy of a 40-man sooner than you’d want to.

    Injured guys who will, or potentially could, need a 40-man spot:


    Guys who could push the issue in due time:


    Potentially expendable 40-man slots:

    Nix (and that’s a stretch – he’s not most folks’ favorite, but we need him right now)

    The numbers crunch is going to really limit some of what can be done.

    I wasn’t a fan of dumping Aardsma, even though I realize I’m reacting more to name value than reality, but I think it still could have put the back end of the bullpen in much better shapre right now.

    • mitch

      I get your point, but I don’t think you can look at the 40 man roster in such a long-term way. Things will work themselves out. They are more than a few moves away from having to dump someone valuable off the 40 man.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        Absolutely true. I’m just trying to point out that it’s not as easy as swapping out the Francisco’s and Montgomery’s and whatnot of this world as we think.

    • hmelawyer

      There will be no 40-man roster moves necessary for Jeter, Tex, or Granderson. None were put on the 60-day DL, and as such they are currently occupying a 40-man slot. Jeter is actually an option at this point to put on the 60-day if we need a 40-man slot since we know he is going to be out for that long.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        I confused 25 with 40 in some of that for sure, but activating them to the 25-man is still going to require a roster move.

        I definitely got my head and terminology mixed up there, but there’s a point that still remains.

        • Travis L.

          How about this…

          Tex returns, we DFA Overbay
          Grandy returns we OPT Boesch
          Jeter returns we OPT Nunez (unless he starts to hit)
          Promote Neal to take over for Francisco
          Cabral returns DFA Eppley
          Pineda returns….then it depends on what is going on at the time. If Betances is struggling (DFA), if Kelley begins to suck again (DFA).

          Maybe at some point, we do a two for one trade and open up a 40-man spot that way. There is so much to think about. Hell, if Youk’s back acts up even more, then he could need a DL stint and there you go…another spot.

          • Robinson Tilapia

            Makes sense to me.

            Cabral isn’t going to necessarily win a spot on this team, Stairs forbid. That’s another thing.

          • Jr

            Am I the only one who thinks Boesch can be good if given the opportunity? He showed too much promise early in his career and is still young.

            • mitch

              Definitely possible, but he’s not really necessary once Grandy comes back. I’d like to see him spend the rest of the year in AAA. I could see him becoming an option for 2014.

            • Robinson Tilapia

              Oh, I think he can be good. I just think his option is pretty valuable this season.

    • trr

      Thanks -Good analysis, Robbie, and I strongly agree with most of it, except Nix (He’s no favorite of mine, but we don’t have a lot of other options). And yes, I still don’t understand why we dumped Aardsma

  • Robinson Tilapia

    You also could replace Musty with Neal or Adams as guys who could push the issue, as well as add Betances *sniff* to potentially expendable 40-man slots.

  • Vern Sneaker

    Hughes, Nova, Phelps: something’s got to give. Montgomery only fits if Warren’s sent down. Otherwise, I prefer Warren as long man over Phelps, who should be starting or at AAA. Nova’s no bullpen fix, in my opinion he has head issues to go with his great stuff. If Hughes screws up tonight, maybe he’s the long man fix — put Phelps in the rotation and send Warren down. Very frustrating to see Cashman and Girardi stay so long with undesirable situations (Francisco!)

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Hate to tell ya, but it only feels long. It’s still the third week of April.

      I get the frustration, but I don’t think they’ve been sitting on any situation for too long yet. Let’s talk in a month if the outfield still looks exactly the same.

      • Dan

        I would hope by the time one month comes around Granderson will be back and Francisco is the most likely candidate to be DFA’d.

    • LK

      It’s funny, it seems like every pitcher with command issues has some type of mental shortcoming. What a coincidence.

  • Mark

    How long will it be before the Yanks get no-hit by a LHP this year? It’s just a matter of time, unless something is done to augment this rag-tag lineup vs left-handers.

    • ROBTEN

      Five and a half hours?

  • theyankeewarrior

    Take with grain of salt bc I didn’t have time to read article:

    How about using Warren as a non-long reliever? Dude’s velocity would approach the mid-90s. He looks as good or better than any of the other middle-innings guys.

  • viridiana

    I actually like what they’ve done with Warren– especially since they buried him last year after a poor debut performance. By keeping him, they have allowed him to pitch well (even if sparingly) at MLB level. This has to restore some of Warren’s confidence — also raises his market value. If Yanks think he can continue to perform well, they should keep him. No guarantee top starters will continue to pitch deep. Having said all that, wouldn’t mind seeing Montgomery on roster too. If Nova diesn’t turn things around, some shuffling may be in order.

  • The Desert Fox

    Yankee closer in 3 years will be _________

    A. Robertson
    B. Montgomery
    C. Free Agent
    D. Trade
    E. Someone else

    • JRod

      E. Joba, More of a wish than a prediction, but why the hell shouldn’t he be given a shot with us?
      If you told the baseball world back in ’07 that Joba would NEVER be even given a chance to close with the Yankees, they would look upon it as a world historically stupid decision. I never thought he had the makeup to be a starter, and given his injury history I don’t think he’ll have a long career, but I expect he will have 3-4 years as an elite closer, probably with another team.

      • Need Pitching & Hitting (but mostly hitting)

        He’s been far from elite for a few years now. I see no reason to expect him to suddenly be an elite closer for 3-4 years.

      • WhittakerWalt

        2007 Joba bears little resemblance to 2013 Joba. That Joba was superhuman, he only gave up like one run in 7 weeks of pitching. Given everything we’ve witnessed in the following years, we have to conclude that 2007 Joba was a fluke.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        Other than when he was hurt (and so was Joba), there is no human being walking this earth who deserved to close for the Yankees over Mariano Rivera. I don’t get this.

        Joba has this season to show he should be in the conversation.

        • JRod

          Of course Joba has never been given the opportunity to be a closer. For obvious reasons. What I meant is that when Mo is gone next year, I think he warrants a shot. Indeed he will need to perform well in the 7th inning or whatever role he’s assigned this year-but again, there’s the problem. I’m not sure you can model a bits & pieces 7th inning role and predict success or failure as a closer. His velocity has ticked up again, and if he sustains that, I think he merits a look for the role.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      So “E” would be limited to an internal option not named “A” or “B.”

      I’ll go with either “A” of “C.”

    • TomH

      In “3 years”? I don’t even know where I’ll be in 3 years. I don’t, however, “think” it’ll be Robertson. I couldn’t tell you why, but it’s a suspicion that he’s not comfortable in such a high-pressure situation. You know, in businesses and bureaucracies, there’s this notion of the “natural #2 guy.” In BP’s, this may be Robertson.

  • Joe R

    Epply doesnt fit that strikeout type. But he’s been ok since being sent down to AAA.

  • high heat

    It’s time to #freemonty!

  • Tony Moschetti

    And the Yankees will continue to struggle vs lefties as long a Girardi continues to play Ben FANcisco. His highest BA in past five years has been .247. Boesch looks a lot better vs lefties than Ben, who looks awful against everyone.

    FANcisco is another indictment of Cashman’s awful farm system, since it appears he’s admitting there is no one better, anywhere in it. The Red Sox drafted in about the same spot as the Yankees, and have a bunch more top notch guys on their roster, and in their system than the Yankees. Nava, Middlebrooks, Iglesias, Bradley, and they traded Reddick.

    The Yankees have NOBODY ready or close to ready as their roster shows.And let’s hope that Wells’ dismal performance vs Moore was just one game, rather than a portend of things to come as he faces better pitching.

    • Robinson Tilapia


    • Jim Is Bored

      As if every single batter who has ever played the game doesn’t hit worse against better pitching?

      This idea is the single most mind-boggling to me. I just do not understand why it’s so hard for people to understand that hitters hit better against bad pitchers. That’s like, tautological territory right there and it’s just completely ignored.

  • Jayfoot

    Send him down and bring up another RH hitting infielder. Give some flexibility there. Warren isnt pitching and it really hasn’t affected the team so use the space for something else.

  • rex, the wonder dog

    Two long relievers are unnecessary.
    Especially when they’re both righties.

    The Yanks need another lefty in the bullpen. Heck, three out of seven relievers ought to be lefties.
    There are games in which having pitchers who really dominate LH batters is vital. And, it’d be best if that “third” lefty in the bullpen can pitch a few innings, or more, at times.

    I’m voting to give Vidal Nuno an opportunity. Bring him up and send down Nova, who has STUCK for a year. Move Phelps into the rotation.
    Clay Rapada will be off the DL soon. A LH bullpen corps of Logan, Rapada, and Nuno could be excellent.

  • Alibaba

    Have the Yankees figured out what they have been doing wrong in bringing up starting pitchers? I cannot seem to remember TB Rays’ any high-end pitching prospect fail. In contrast, ZERO of our pitching prospect made it since Andy Pettitte. It cannot be coincidence.