Adam Warren came to spring training with the hope of securing the fifth starter job for the New York Yankees. A starter throughout his time in the minors, he worked mostly out of the bullpen for the major league club in 2013. The fifth starter job was eventually won by Michael Pineda, who pitched extraordinarily well in the spring and through his first two starts to the open the season. However, Warren made the decision closer than most expected. Despite not pitching in a single home game all spring, Warren sported a 1.69 ERA in 10 2/3 innings with ten strikeouts.
Adam Warren was never considered a “can’t miss” prospect as he came up through the Yankee farm system. However, the former North Carolina Tar Heel steadily climbed the ladder making his major league debut in 2012. Then he took the next step in 2013 making the team out of spring training and working out of the bullpen, mostly as a long reliever and spot starter. Now in 2014, Warren seems intent on continuing his progression in the bullpen from mop work last season to big time late inning work in 2014.
Since the Yankees decided to keep all of the “losers” of the fifth starter competition (Adam Warren, David Phelps, and Vidal Nuno) with the major league club, none of the three have been limited to solely long relief roles and the opportunity remains open for each to make a play for more meaningful innings. David Phelps struggled in his first few outings of the season before turning things around for a multi-inning save in his last appearance. Vidal Nuno was hammered for seven runs in 3 1/3 innings against the Baltimore Orioles in his last appearance. Meanwhile, Adam Warren has taken advantage of his opportunity by performing at a high level right out of the gate this season. Warren leads the team in appearances this season with six, and has not allowed a run in any of those appearances.
The Yankees’ bullpen is a work in progress to say the least. Already working without the greatest closer of all time, Mariano Rivera, the Yankees lost Rivera’s heir, David Robertson, in the first week of the season. Shawn Kelley, a pitcher with zero career saves entering the season, is now the interim closer. That leaves the primary right-handed setup man position wide open. The main candidates to fulfill the position are Warren, rookie Dellin Betances and Phelps. Betances seems like a long shot to take the position this early in his rookie season, although his stuff and makeup is the best suited of the three for the role. When we look at the makeup of the bullpen towards the end of August, we may be talking about what a key part of the bullpen Betances has been. However, in mid-April he is too much of an unknown for the ultra conservative manager, Joe Girardi, to install as the primary set up man. Phelps made a big play in his last outing, pitching 2 1/3 innings with three punch-outs to get his first career save, but struggled in his previous three appearances. Warren has been the most consistent and has seen Girardi’s confidence in him grow with each appearance. If Warren keeps pitching the way he has this season, Warren will continue to be called upon to hold late inning leads even when Robertson returns from the DL.