Game 76: Warren’s First Time

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

You only get one Major League debut, and tonight 24-year-old right-hander Adam Warren will make his. He’ll become the first player to make his big league debut as a starting pitcher for the Yankees since Ian Kennedy in 2007, a game I just so happened to have in my 20-game package that summer. That was neat. Anyway, it would be real nice if the offense could push some runs across early to give Warren some breathing room. Here’s the lineup…

SS Derek Jeter
CF Curtis Granderson
1B Mark Teixeira
3B Alex Rodriguez
2B Robinson Cano
RF Nick Swisher
DH Andruw Jones
LF Jayson Nix
C  Chris Stewart

RHP Adam Warren

Tonight’s game is scheduled to start a little after 7pm ET and can be seen on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy.

HOPE Week: Today’s event featured the Children’s Alopecia Project and a picnic at the New York Botanical Gardens. Alopecia is an autoimmune disease that attacks hair follicles and leads to hair loss. Chad Jennings has the details.

Yankees claim Chris Schwinden off waivers, cut Danny Farquhar

The Yankees have claimed right-hander Chris Schwinden off waivers from the Indians and assigned him to Triple-A Empire State, the team announced. Fellow right-hander and the recently claimed Danny Farquhar was designated for assignment to clear a 40-man roster spot. He hadn’t even appeared in a game yet.

Schwinden, 25, owns a 6.98 ERA (5.02 FIP) in 29.2 career big league innings, all coming with the Mets this year and last. His career Triple-A performance — 4.02 ERA (3.77 FIP) in 212.2 IP — is slightly more encouraging. Baseball America ranked Schwinden as the 24th best prospect in the Mets’ system before the season, saying he “fits best as a No. 5 starter whose pitchability always will outstrip his raw stuff.” With Adam Warren in the show and Dellin Betances in Double-A, the Yankees needed to replenish some pitching depth in Triple-A.

Yankees recall David Phelps, send Ryota Igarashi to Triple-A

The Yankees have recalled right-hander David Phelps from High-A Tampa, giving the club a long-man with Adam Warren scheduled to start tonight and Freddy Garcia slated for Monday. Ryota Igarashi was sent back to Triple-A in a corresponding move.

Phelps threw 55 pitches on Monday and should be good for 60-70 tonight if needed. The Yankees sent him down a few weeks ago to stretch him out so he could start, and I’m not a big fan of abandoning that plan with both CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte on the shelf. Hopefully they can keep him stretched out to 50 pitches or so before sending him back down when Sabathia comes off the DL.

Thinking about minor league promotions

(Matt Burton/MiLB.com)

The minor league season is a little more than halfway complete, with the four full-season affiliates having already played at least 74 games out of their 144-game schedules. That means promotions should be upon us, and in fact this week’s Dellin Betances demotion might represent the start of a wave of player moves. Josh Norris recently spoke to someone who said to expect some movement in about a week, and last night the Yankees bumped righty reliever Nick Goody up from Short Season Staten Island to Low-A Charleston. He’ll be the first 2012 draftee to appear in a full-season league.

The Yankees have already made some very minor promotions, like Mikey O’Brien to Double-A Trenton and Chase Whitley to Triple-A Empire State, but the most notable moves should come very soon. Here’s a preview of what could be in store in the next week or two…

C Gary Sanchez to High-A Tampa
This one seems like a total no-brainer. Sanchez is repeating Low-A Charleston and doing so in a big way — .304/.357/.534 with 13 homers and 11 steals (!) in 277 plate appearances. He’s also played ten fewer games behind the plate than last year and has 16 fewer passed balls. A move up to Tampa would force Sanchez to split catcher and DH duties with J.R. Murphy, which they did for the first few weeks of last season. Murphy is having a great June — .316/.354/.494 with three homers — but his overall performance (.260/.324/.374) has been underwhelming. Splitting catching duties is not ideal, but Sanchez needs the promotion and it will help keep both guys from wearing down in August and September. As an added bonus, Francisco Arcia and his .305/.393/.495 batting line would get a chance as the full-time catcher for the River Dogs once Sanchez is promoted.

OF Tyler Austin to High-A Tampa, OF Rob Segedin to Double-A Trenton
Moving Austin up is another no-brainer. He’s been the best hitter in the farm system this year, with a .328/.408/.621 batting line to go with 14 homers and 17 steals in 292 plate appearances for Low-A Charleston. It’s pretty clear that he isn’t being challenged enough at the level, so move him on up. In a corresponding move to clear an outfield spot, Segedin can move up to Trenton. He’s hitting .291/.359/.446 in 312 plate appearances this year after finishing last season in Tampa. The Thunder outfield is pretty packed with the Almontes (Abe and Zoilo) and Melky Mesa, but Cody Johnson’s injury and Neil Medchill’s general non-prospectness free up the DH spot. Segedin can also play third on occasion.

RHRP Phil Wetherell to High-A Tampa, RHRP Mark Montgomery to Double-A Trenton
Wetherell’s numbers are not eye-popping — 5.05 ERA with 38 hits allowed in 35.2 innings — but he’s missing bats (9.3 K/9 and 23.3 K%), limiting walks (3.3 BB/9 and 8.2 BB%), and keeping the ball in the park (just one homer allowed). As a 22-year-old college reliever, there’s only so much to be gained from facing Low-A hitters. Montgomery, on the other hand, has the huge numbers — 1.54 ERA with 53 strikeouts (13.6 K/9 and 38.1 K%) and 12 walks (3.1 BB/9 and 8.6 BB%) in 35 innings — and the wipeout slider to back them up. A short reliever with a breaking ball that good should overwhelm Single-A competition like Montgomery has, and now it’s time to get him up to the next level.

(Beverly Schaefer/The Times of Trenton)

LHSP Vidal Nuno to Triple-A Empire State
The Betances demotion as well as the Adam Warren recall thinned out the Triple-A rotation in a hurry. They still have D.J. Mitchell, Ramon Ortiz, and John Maine in their regular spots and could pull Nelson Figueroa and Mike O’Connor out of the bullpen, but moving Nuno up should also be a serious consideration. He’s an older guy (25 next month) the Yankees plucked out of an independent league last season and he’s done nothing but dominate since joining the organization: 154 strikeouts (8.1 K/9 and 22.8 K%) and just 32 walks (1.7 BB/9 and 4.7 BB%) in 171 innings. Nuno has been stellar since moving into the Double-A rotation last month, allowing just four earned runs in 40.1 innings across seven starts. The Yankees lack left-handers in the system and moving Nuno up gives them a chance to evaluate him at the highest possible level.

* * *

Last month I wrote about the idea of promoting Mason Williams based mostly on his insane contact rates, though I could see it going either way. I would understand if they bumped him up to Tampa or kept him in Charleston, there are viable reasons to do both. Sanchez and Austin are the definite promotions though, ditto Montgomery. The four (really six) moves listed above seem like the most logical ones to make this July.

The RAB Radio Show: June 29th, 2012

Heartbreaking loss last night, but overall it was a good week for the Yankees. Since we last broadcast they went 5-2, with one of the losses coming in the ninth. In the other they had the go-ahead run on base in the ninth.

Clearly we’re talking about the rotation issues and what they mean for the immediate future. It’s Garcia and Warren for now, but expect to see a few changes between now and the end of July. Tis the season.

We’re onto some reader questions, and then an outlook for the next week, which nearly takes us to the All-Star break.

Podcast run time 48:24

Here’s how you can listen to podcast:

[audio:http://riveraveblues.com/podcasts/TheRABRadioShow062912.mp3]

Intro music: “Die Hard” courtesy of reader Alex Kresovich. Thanks to Tyler Wilkinson for the graphic.

Adam Warren’s Big Chance

(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Right-hander Adam Warren will make his big league debut against the White Sox tonight, but he’s really Plan C for this start. Obviously the Yankees would prefer CC Sabathia to be healthy and able to make his regular turn, but when he hit the DL the plan was to pull Freddy Garcia out of the bullpen and let him start. When Garcia was needed in long relief of Andy Pettitte on Wednesday, the Bombers had little choice but to give the ball to Warren on regular rest.

The team’s fourth round pick back in 2009, the 24-year-old former North Carolina Tar Heel has steadily climbed the minor league ladder and came into this season as the ninth best prospect in the organization (in my opinion). Warren’s performance in Triple-A since the start of last season hasn’t been anything special — 3.70 ERA (3.84 FIP), 6.51 K/9 (16.6 K%), 3.02 BB/9 (7.8 BB%), and 41.6% grounders in 238.2 IP — but his last six starts have been pretty strong. He’s allowed zero runs in three of the six starts and two earned runs in another to go with a 24/11 K/BB in 37.1 IP. Warren thrice complete seven innings of work during the stretch.

“[Warren] came out with a lot of intensity,” said Triple-A Indianapolis manager Dean Treanor to Mark Hale, referring to his team’s loss to Warren this past Sunday. “Just the way he went about it. I was very impressed with that. He attacked us.”

When I wrote my Prospect Profile prior to 2010, I mentioned that Warren saw his velocity jump into the mid-90s after turning pro and that his best secondary pitch was a changeup. More than two years have passed though, so that info is a bit outdated. Warren now sits in the 89-93 range with his fastball and will still bump 95 on occasion, but his top offspeed pitch has become his slider according to Baseball America and their 2012 Prospect Handbook. Warren’s curveball and changeup lag behind the fastball-slider combination, but he will use four pitches. It’s a classic back-end starter repertoire, which has been his profile since his days at Chapel Hill.

The Yankees are probably hoping to get six solid innings out of Warren tonight, modest expectations for a kid making his big league debut. This is obviously a massive opportunity for him as he has a chance to pitch his way into the long-term mix with Pettitte shelved until September. Sabathia is scheduled to come back immediately after the All-Star break, but Warren can’t look at this as “I just have to out-pitch Garcia to keep the job.” The Yankees have D.J. Mitchell waiting in Triple-A and David Phelps getting stretched back out in High-A, and they won’t hesitate to stick one of them in the rotation if Warren isn’t getting the job done.

Competition is a great thing, especially when you’re talking about young players. These guys theoretically push each other to be better, and the odds are in favor of at least one of them proving to be a serviceable starter for the next two months. That’s the great thing about depth, you don’t have to rely on one guy. Whoever is the best out of Warren, Phelps, and Mitchell will get the chance to replace Pettitte and establish himself as a long-term pitching option, and Warren is getting the first chance simply because he lines up perfectly to pitch tonight. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime.