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Adam Warren Continues to Show Versatility For Yankees Pitching Staff

Warren has succeeded in bullpen and rotation.

Adam Warren (Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports)

Adam Warren (Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports)


Exactly a month ago, the Yankees made a widely unpopular decision by announcing that Adam Warren was being removed from the starting rotation after the team used a six-man rotation for a week or so following Ivan Nova’s return from Tommy John surgery.

“It’s a tough decision because he’s pitched so well but it’s what we need to do,” manager Joe Girardi told reporters.

Even though the 27-year-old Warren was arguably the Yankees most consistent starter and led the non-Nova starters with a 3.59 ERA (110 ERA+) at the time of his demotion, he became caught in a numbers squeeze and was asked to return to the bullpen role that he filled so well in 2013 and 2014.

“It’s not like I’m unhappy in the bullpen. I enjoy being in the bullpen, it’s just I rather start,” said Warren, who allowed three earned runs or fewer in his final nine starts. “I just needed a couple of hours to process it and kind of accept it. Once I did, mentally it’s been fine. I think just getting back into the routine took a couple of days.”

He had a 3.39 ERA as a rookie in 2013, and last year Warren posted a 2.97 ERA in kind of a bullpen handyman role. He was a setup man, a multi-inning middle reliever, occasionally a long man, and he even picked up three saves. Whatever Girardi needed, Warren did it and he made the transition from starter to reliever seamlessly.

“I think I’ve had some good role models down there, guys that I can watch how they prepare,” Warren told me in the Yankee locker room. “I had Mariano the first year and some guys that have been down there for a long time. David Robertson was down there. Just guys like that you can watch how they go about their business, how they’re so consistent and you see why they’re successful. I feel like I’ve picked some of their routine out and kind of did some of my own things.”

Warren was a starter at North Carolina and during his four seasons in the minor league system before becoming the Yankees version of a Swiss Army knife. He may have been statistically overshadowed by a younger teammate named Matt Harvey while at UNC, but Warren graduated with the best winning percentage (.889) in school history and enjoyed a pretty successful four-year stay at Chapel Hill.

“I loved it at North Carolina and that’s really where I feel like I learned to pitch,” said Warren, who helped the Tar Heels reach the College World Series in each of his four seasons. “I felt like I had a good fastball,  a good breaking ball out of high school, but I really started learning the nuances of hitting the corners and changing speeds in college.

“I think they did a really good job developing me as a pitcher, taking care of my arm, pitch counts and that sort of thing. So I had a great time there and I felt like I started learning to become a pitcher instead of a thrower.”

He was selected in the fourth round of the 2009 draft by the Yankees and put together a solid minor league resume, arriving in the Bronx for a spot start in 2012. Warren was terrible, surrendering 6 runs in 2 1/3 innings against the White Sox. He was sent back to the minors the next day, but it was an experience that he will never forget.

“It was one of the most exciting, but one of the most terrible days of my life,” said Warren. “It’s one of those things you don’t really want to talk about that much because it was so bad, but I feel like I learned that you got to slow the game down. I told myself if I ever get another chance I’m going to go out there and slow the game down, walk around the mound and really try to slow it down.”

Prior to this season, Warren had made only three career big league starts (6.97 ERA) but the numbers are skewed heavily by his disastrous debut. He was a starter his entire career before the 2013 season though, and I’m sure that if you asked him, he’d like to be a starter once again. That’s where the money is at, after all.

“I do want to be a starter so it’s kind of like how do you limit innings, but build up at the same time,” Warren admitted.

The team cited Warren’s workload as another factor behind relegating him back to the purgatory of middle relief. Warren has thrown a career-high 95 1/3 innings this season, more than he threw last year (78.2) or the year before (77). Warren’s career high is 155 innings set back in 2012 for Scranton. He also threw 152 1/3 innings the year before that, so pitching deep into the season isn’t a totally new experience for him.

“Could I throw the whole year and throw 180-200 innings? Maybe,” he said. “But if I was to do that and get hurt when I hit 150 or something like that then everybody would say he wasn’t built up. It’s a hard thing to know.”

To me, the move of Warren into the bullpen is hard to justify for a few reasons, mainly because he’s still reasonably young (27) and I’d like to find out if he can be a long-term rotation fixture, not just a stopgap. The Yankees have been desperately waiting for a young starter to emerge basically since Andy Pettitte debuted back in 1995, and with Warren they might have one.

Now we won’t get to find out whether he can be a long-term part of the rotation, but there’s a good chance he will be a rotation fixture soon enough. In the meantime, the Yankees know Warren can slide back into the rotation should someone get hurt, and he will serve as another capable setup man among many.

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