Warren finding a niche in the bullpen

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(Jason Miller/Getty)
(Jason Miller/Getty)

Coming into this season, Adam Warren was at a weird place in his career. He repeated the Triple-A level in 2012 and pitched marginally better than he had in 2011, but not well enough to really force his way into the team’s plans. His disastrous one-start big league stint last summer didn’t help matters either. Warren was stuck in spare arm purgatory, a nice pitcher to have in the organization but hardly a cornerstone.

Instead of going back to Scranton for a third stint at Triple-A, the 25-year-old Warren made the team out of Spring Training with an assist from Phil Hughes‘ balky back. It was basically a repeat of last year, when David Phelps unexpectedly made the club out of camp thanks to Michael Pineda‘s shoulder. An injury to a projected starter forced the projected long man into the rotation, creating an opening in the bullpen. Phelps took advantage last year and Warren is looking to do the same now.

“I think Dave kind of started something last year when he came up and did well,” said Warren to Mark Feinsand on Monday. “For us guys down in the minor leagues, we’re kind of like, ‘Well, we might have a chance to help this team.’ So you kind of get that little bit of glimmer of hope. Now, this year, guys are getting some opportunities and we’re trying to take advantage of them. We have that confidence coming up that we know we can get outs, so I think that really helped us.”

In seven relief appearances this year, Warren has posted a 1.45 ERA and 3.07 FIP in 18.2 innings. Four of those seven outings lasted at least two innings, including his first (one run in 5.1 innings) and most recent (four scoreless innings) appearances. His strikeout rate isn’t anything special (7.23 K/9 and 20.3%) despite an above-average 10.4% overall whiff rate, but he has limited walks (2.89 BB/9 and 8.1 BB%) and gotten a ton of ground balls (52.8%). They aren’t the kind of peripherals that make you think he’s worthy of higher leverage work, but they’re plenty good enough to succeed in this role.

Warren hasn’t changed his approach much in relief, mostly because he’s turned lineups over a few times and needed to use all his pitches. His fastball has averaged 92.3 mph and topped out at 94.1 mph — a tick or two better than what he usually does as a starter — and he’s thrown his mid-80s slider and low-80s changeup nearly 20% of the time each. He’s thrown his upper-70s curveball once out of every ten pitches as well. Most guys scrap their third or fourth best pitch when they move into the bullpen, even long relief, but Warren has stuck with the kitchen sink approach.

“You just have to stay mentally focused,” said Warren to Chad Jennings earlier this month when asked about his role. “Things can change so quick. For me personally, I try to have a good attitude about whatever role I’m in. Opportunities arise. You do have to stay kind of mentally focused even though you may not be pitching in games that are close to start out with, just try to stay sharp for when you do get that opportunity.”

I wasn’t quite sure where Warren fit with the Yankees after last season, at least beyond being an extra arm in Triple-A for emergencies. It seemed like he was, at best, the team’s seventh starter and tradeable prospect. Kinda sorta useful. To his credit, Warren has taken advantage of his opportunity and become a valuable multi-inning reliever, someone capable of soaking up some bulk innings in blowouts without sending Joe Girardi to the bullpen phone every time a runner reaches base. He might only be the 22nd or 23rd man on the roster, but he’s pitched himself up the depth chart after being the 38th or 39th man on the 40-man roster just a few weeks ago.

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  • Robinson Tilapia

    Proving me wrong for sure. I thought he just didn’t have the stuff after watching that flat fastball get crushed in his one start. SSS, they told me. I laughed at the time.

    There’s going to be some interesting bullpen roster crunching coming soon. It’s going to interesting to see who makes the cut and who doesn’t.

    • JLC 776

      He really got a bad rap for that one start. He had put together a few good runs in AAA that I always thought warranted a closer look – both before and after The Start. Anyway, it’s always fun to root for the home built guys, so I’m real happy to see him getting this extended audition.

      Slowly but surely, I’m becoming more and more happy with our youth.

  • Mattchu12

    I’ve been an irrational Warren fan for a few years now, I love guys who can throw two-seamers and cutters because you just don’t know which way the ball is going to break and that spells tons of bad swings. I was hoping he’d surpass Phelps as the sixth starter pecking order, but I’ll take this too. Multi-inning relievers can be valuable, though if you’re using them too often, you have a very different problem in the rotation, so I can’t say I wanna see a lot of him in that role.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Maybe he’ll surpass Nova in that role.

      There’s going to be a ton of legitimate fifth starter contenders on this team moving forward. You’ve got these two, you’ve got Nuno, you’ve got Wang, and you’re going to have Pineda eventually.

      • Deathstroke Heathcott

        CC
        Kuroda
        Pettitte
        Hughes
        Phelps

        Pineda
        Nuno
        Wang
        Warren
        Nova

        Let’s say you split them up like CC, Hughes, Nuno, Warren, Nova and Kuroda, Pettitte, Phelps, Pineda, Wang, where would each rotation rank roughly in the MLB?

        • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

          Both better than the Astros.

  • Robert

    Any word on David Adams yet?

  • jjyank

    Glad to see him succeed, and it seems like he’s got a good attitude about his role. Regardless of what you thought of a guy as a prospect, it’s always nice to see a farm hand step up and contribute positively to the big league club. Keep it up Warren, and more opportunities are sure to arise.

  • high heat

    The thing that sticks out about Warren is how effortless and fluid his delivery looks. You’d expect him to be a soft-tosser with that type of easy motion, but the FB really jumps.

  • Robinson Tilapia

    I’m beginning to feel like it’s going to be difficult to pry Warren, Claiborne, and Kelley away from their current roles. I’ll assume Marshall won’t be kept as long man for the sake of having one when Joba is ready, unless Darren throws Joba in front of a truck.

    Where I’m very curious is the man whose rehab clock just started…..our very own “Stairs” Cabral. There’s going to be a decision to be made on him soon. If he continues to flash what he showed last spring in these rehab appearances, what happens? Does one of the above get sacrficed for a potential 90 days in order to keep him in the org? Can the Yanks and Sox work something out in order for the Yanks to keep him (or will the Yanks and Sox not work with each other to that level?) Does Cabral, after the “relationship” we’ve built with him over the past year or so, RETURN TO THE SOX?!?! A rather interesting little mini-plot.

    • jjyank

      Plot twist: Cabral was never injured. They faked the injury and sent him to a special camp in a deep, underground bunker. There, he was brainwashed slowly over the last year to hate the Red Sox. The Yankees will then return him to Boston, where he will become the ultimate embedded Yankee.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        Tony Pena: Dey didn’t do nuttin for you, Stairs. Dey let you go. You go back dere, and you tell us all dere secrets.

        Stairs: I will cut those cabrones, Tony. I will cut them.

    • mitch

      I’d rather not have a second loogy on the roster. Maybe in the postseason, but not now. Hopefully they can work out something to keep him in AAA.

      • jsbrendog

        having cabral on the roster for 90 days would be great if he succeeds. it would limit the overuse of BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONE which would help down the stretch and (hopefully) in the playoffs, it would allow them to keep him, and, allow them to let boone go when he is an FA.

        I think it is a no brainer to send someone down to bring him up and see what he’s got in 20 days. worst case you return him/work something out and bring back up the guy you demoted.

        i am saying this without knowing how the 40 man looks right now but there is always expendable dreck on there for a young lefty with upside.

        • jjyank

          Agreed. After all of this, I think the Yanks owe it to themselves to see what Cabral can do. At least give him a shot and see what happens.

          • Robinson Tilapia

            A bodyguard, or three, for Clay Rapada would be helpful.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          That’s where I lean. It’s not like Claiborne or Kelley can’t be back when injury occurs, in September, or if Cabral doesn’t prove successful.

          I do like me some Shawn Kelley when he’s on. I’ll tell you that.

          • The Real Me

            I do like me some …

            I’m seeing a pattern with you over the last couple of days. Is this something the guys on here need to worry about if they meet you? Does your wife know??? :-)

            • Robinson Tilapia

              Ha! I tend to run a favorite phrase of the week into the ground sometimes.

              • Havok9120

                “Sometimes.”

                Yeah. Sometimes.

  • CashmanNinja

    I’ve always liked Warren and am so glad that he’s pitching well. It’s a small sample size, but he’s done very well regardless. He isn’t moping and whining for a bigger role. He knows he’ll get his chance and that he has a spot on the team. I hope he keeps pitching well. I actually wouldn’t mind seeing him leapfrog Nova. Nova may have better power stuff, but I just don’t get nervous when Warren pitches. I’m on the edge of my seat when Nova pitches because who knows which version you’ll get. The good, the bad, or the so bad he looks like he’ll throw 100 pitches by the 4th inning.

    • jsbrendog

      i honestly think nova needs to go down to aaa when he gets back to work on something, anything. consistency, whatever.

  • LarryM Fl

    I’m repeating myself but enjoying this early part of the season. The young guys are getting some chances and are making the best of it. Cashman should get some credit for the construction balance of the roster. Veterans and young guys doing their best to show that they belong while the superstars are rehabbing. The lineup will improve as the DLers comeback and maybe the utility spots will be a surprise makeup, I can not wait to see.

    If Adams gets the call I hope its Ben Francisco who is removed from the roster. Nelson is head and shoulders over Francisco in the usefulness category.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      But do you need Nelson AND Adams?

      • Mickey Scheister

        Right now, I’d say yes. Until Nunez or Youk gets back. Nelson can play SS in a pinch and right now that’s something Joseph or Fransico can not.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          Gonzalez can play a better SS than Nelson, though.

          • Mickey Scheister

            Forgot about him. Nelson may be the causality then, but he got two hits yesterday so they may get creative!11! The ultimate SSS.

            • Robinson Tilapia

              They must really like what they see in Adams’s bat if he’s just two years younger than Nelson, has only a few months above AA, and may be chosen over him.

              Not saying it’s the wrong call, if that’s what it is, but I hope Adams would prove the team right there.

              Nelson probably is slightly better than the awful shit we saw from him early on.

      • jjyank

        You can fit them both if Adams takes Francisco’s role as the primary RHB DH, as well as using him to spell Nix at 3B. I guess having both Nix and Nelson on the bench is a bit redundant, but it’s not like a Francisco/Nix tandem on the bench is a real upgrade in anyway way. If Francisco was the 4th OF, I might agree, but with Granderson back, he’s the 5th OF. Not much use for him besides a RHB DH anyway, and Adams can do that.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          I wouldn’t be too surprised if Francisco makes the cut today and remains a Yankee at the expense of Nelson.

          I still maintain swapping out Francisco for Mesa wouldn’t be bad, as it would give the team a true speed/defense fifth outfield and we wouldn’t have to see him strike out in his sleep as often.

          • jjyank

            I wouldn’t be surprised or upset either way, I just really think Francisco is completely useless.

            • Robinson Tilapia

              Oh yeah, he’s useless. Maybe he’s not as useless on another, much shittier, team, but he offers nothing in an already limited role. That’s a dead roster spot right now.

              • jsbrendog

                he will be in houston or on the mets within days of getting cut

                • Robinson Tilapia

                  ANKIEL! FRANCISCO! YOUR 2013 NEW YORK METS. CONVENIENTLY LOCATED NEXT TO SHAKE SHACK AT CITIFIELD.

                • JohnnyC

                  Judging by the shitstorm over Valdespin among Mets media & fans right now, the Mets don’t need Francisco. Jordany should be playing every day. He’s “exciting” and “has more talent than anyone on the team except Harvey and Wright.” Yeah, they said that on WFAN. Roll your eyes kinda stuff.

      • Need Pitching & Hitting (but mostly hitting)

        Do you need Francisco, in any combination, with anybody else?

        Seems like left side of the IF depth could be more useful in the near future than Ben Francisco ever will be.

        I have a sinking feeling Francisco won’t be the one to go though.

  • Vern Sneaker

    Warren: Always seemed to be like a serviceable major leaguer. Glad he’s doing well.

    Adams: Hooray, anxious to see if keeps hitting at this level. If Francisco isn’t cut, I will be DFA’d (Damned F-ing Angry).

    • The Real Me

      I get your point and am kind of with you, but I could see it being Nelson, as others before have mentioned unless they think Adams or Nix could fake a corner OF spot in a pinch in place of Ban Francisco. Otherwise, do they really need Adams, AG, Nix and Nelson for SS & 3B (and maybe one day at 2B during the next month or 2)?

  • boobie

    Any word on how Pineda’s ext ST game went? Was on Monday and haven’t heard anything. Not sure if I missed it?

  • dkidd

    i love that picture

    their expressions = “we made it to the bigs!”

  • greg

    We already have 4 outfielders and nix can play the outfield if needed.We need to see what we have in adams. Start him at third and let it ride until youk comes back then choose between nelson and adams. Tonights lineup should have nelson at 2nd and adams at 3rd with cano getting the half day at dh.

  • cheddar

    Franks and beans!

  • Brian S.

    We definitely have some solid trade bait with Phelps looking like a mid-rotation starter and Warren and Nuno showing they can get Major League hitters out. We could trade Nova, Warren, or Marshall to a team starving for starting pitching and not skip a beat.

    • Brian S.

      Honestly Nova doesn’t really have a place on the team anymore in my opinion. The rotation should go CC-Kuroda-Pettitte-Hughes-Phelps with Warren and Nuno as long relief options.

      • Brian S.

        What could a package of Nova and Nunez fetch? Nova and Nunez for Joe Panik and Josh Osich who says no?

        • Brian S.

          Nova and Nunez for Jesse Biddle

  • Kevin Ocala, Fl

    A K rate of over seven per nine, good walk rate, and 50% GB rate, and Mike thinks that the numbers are ‘iffy’?! If he can keep those numbers as a starter, and avoids injury, he could wind up in the HOF. Sometimes I think that writers/fans are playing too many in too many computer leagues and forget what works in the real world.

    And yeah, let’s wait until he actually “Has” done this for a few years as a starter before calling him the next “fill in the blank”. But predicting players, especially young pitchers, is something that Nobody has ever mastered………

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      When did I say they were iffy?

  • RetroRob

    Phelps, Warren, Noesi and Mitchell. They all seemed interchangeable at one point, and indeed the scouting reports had them in similar buckets, perhaps varying how they were ranked. Interestingly, Phelps always seemed to come out on the bottom of all those rankings.

    The Yankees kept two and jettisoned two others. It’s still early, but looks like they kept the right ones.

  • tommy cassella

    what are the yanks gonna do with this Francisco. character he can’t even buy a hit, and is just taking up space on the roster for the yanks. send him over to the mets. a loser belongs with a bunch of losers.

  • buffdawg

    Go Tar Heel! except for when you pitch against the Sox