Friday, May 10, 2013

Warren Warrants Attention

Warren's performance in 2013 has given him something to smile about.

I'll be the first to admit I did not see what all the hype was about when Adam Warren pitched for the Yankees at the end of last season and in Spring Training this year. He was shelled by whatever teams he faced. And Yankees top pitching prospects haven't exactly panned out lately or moved along as quickly as we were told they would. (In fairness, it's much harder to predict a pitcher's progress than a hitter's progress.)

On a team beset by injuries and doing whatever it takes to win, Warren has stepped up. Thursday afternoon in Colorado he picked up his first Major League win after a long rain delay deprived starter CC Sabathia from continuing in the game.

Warren has never been ranked in Baseball America's top 100 prospects or MLB's top 50 prospects, but the Yankees organization has been very high on him since his performances at Single-A Tampa (2.22 ERA, 1.099 WHIP) and Double-A Trenton (3.15, 1.196) in 2010. A fourth round selection out of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in 2009, Warren got a call to the bigs last year and made one forgettable start in Major League debut.

Pitching in front of his home crowd, Warren got hammered by the Chicago White Sox to the tune of six earned runs and eight hits, including two home runs, in just 2.1 innings pitched. He got saddled in what turned out to be a 14-7 loss. Some pitchers never bounce back from that and others never get a chance to return to the Major Leagues (it was Warren's only Major League appearance in 2012.)

Warren's ascent to the Majors this year could not have been predicted after he allowed 16 earned runs, 24 hits and 10 walks in 17.2 innings pitched in Spring Training. In fact I thought he would be designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster for last minute additions like Vernon Wells and Lyle Overbay. But Warren headed north with the big ball club as the long man out of the pen, and he has made the most of his opportunity.

In Thursday's game with the Rockies, Warren entered the 5th inning after a nearly two hour rain delay with the task of holding a 2-1 lead until the Yankees could get to set up man David Robertson and closer Mariano Rivera. He needed just seven pitches, only one a fastball, to set the side down in order. The 6th inning was a little trickier; it took Warren more pitches just to retire the lead off hitter Adam Ottavino.

Warren needed just two pitches, a 79-mph curveball and a 92-mph cutter to get Eric Young Jr. to ground out for the second out of the inning. Things got tougher after that when Warren had to face Dexter Fowler and Troy Tulowitzki. Relying on his 90-92-mph fastball, Warren walked both hitters and was sent to the showers by manager Joe Girardi. Boone Logan stranded the runners and the Yankees went on for a 3-1 victory, the first win of Warren's Major League career.

Though it may have "only" been five outs, Warren did what the Yankees needed him to do, much like he has all year. In six appearances, Warren has limited the opposition to three runs (1.84 ERA) and 12 hits in 14.2 innings pitched. He still needs to work on his control, the six walks he has issued is three or four too many, but the 25-year old has done what has been asked of him. Keep your team in the game or mop up and save the bullpen for another day is his unwritten mission statement.

No games exemplified Warren's contribution more than the 5.1 innings of one run ball he tossed against Boston in the second game of the season (a 7-4 Yankees loss), three scoreless innings in the team's 2-0 loss to the A's last Friday, and yesterday's "get some outs" assignment. Though he may never make it as a starter in the league, Warren has certainly found his niche.


CC Sabathia was pitching beautifully - one run and one hit allowed in four innings pitched until the skies opened up for a one hour and 59 minute rain delay. It was one of Sabathia's most efficient performances this season - only 51 pitches thrown, 37 of them for strikes.

Robinson Cano picked up his 1,500th hit in the game on an infield single and later hit his 9th home run to give the Yankees an insurance run. Trainer Steve Donahue marked the milestone baseball and then, at Girardi's behest, marked up another ball with an undisclosed inscription on it. Cano got a good laugh from whatever was written as Girardi, Donahue, and his teammates looked on.

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