It’s quite possible that we’re making something out of nothing and that Adam Warren will remain in the bullpen — where he has been one of the Yankees’ most reliable arms this season — but it’s clear that the possibility of moving him into the rotation is at least being discussed.
Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi have each acknowledged it, and on Wednesday, Warren chimed in.
“I’m just trying to take it day-by-day,” he said. “I’m definitely open to it. I’ve always wanted to be a starter.”
While Warren said all of the right things and would willingly do whatever is asked of him, I also couldn’t help but get the feeling as he spoke that he has grown fond of coming out of the pen.
He mentioned his arm feeling as “fresh” as it ever has and being able to rely more on the fastball due to the increased velocity as a reliever, and the results have been an obvious improvement. He’s become a valuable late-inning reliever with a 2.19 ERA, a 1.16 WHIP and is averaging just about a strikeout per inning, which are all significantly better numbers than he put up last year.
He acknowledged that it’s not a given that he would continue that to have that type of success as a starter.
“I feel like I’ll have to transition a bit because I’ve been in the mindset of a reliever,” he said. “It’s definitely two different mindsets. It’s more difficult than most people think.”
While no decision about what to do with Warren has been officially announced, it sounds like Girardi has already made his mind up. Which way he’s leaning is anybody’s guess, but with injuries stripping the rotation of three of its top arms and replacement starter Vidal Nuno struggling, don’t be surprised to see Warren switching roles soon.
“Things aren’t really up in the air with me with what we’re going to do,” he said. “Obviously, there are discussions, and I have my thoughts and beliefs. We talk about it as an organization, but I wouldn’t say things are up in the air with me.”
• As I mentioned, the Yankees wouldn’t be considering messing with Warren if not for Nuno’s recent hiccups. David Phelps and Chase Whitley have pitched well enough to assume that their jobs in the rotation are safe — for now — but Nuno is working with a bloated 5.90 ERA and hasn’t won a game since May 7. Girardi insisted that they remain “on rotation” and that Nuno will make his next start. But when asked if Nuno’s job is on the line, he shied away from the question. “We’re on rotation right now,” he said. “I don’t ever put that type of pressure on people. I don’t think it’s fair to send them out there like that, because there’s a lot of times where you could say that in every rotation. It’s not fair because you don’t necessarily do that with guys and their at-bats, where I call them in the office and say, ‘Hey, your job is on the line.’ I don’t think that’s fair. They understand what’s on the line every day and they understand that this is a performance-based business. They have to go out and perform.”
• Girardi has said that if they did move Warren into the rotation, they could possibly stretch him out with the big league club instead of sending him down. “If you end up doing it, I think you have to have a couple of long men because if you’re stretching out a guy, the chances are you’re going to use one of the long men then,” he said. “You hate to ever be without a long man. You don’t necessarily think that your pitchers are going to get knocked out early or something is going to be wrong with their arm, but you look at that ball that was hit at Tanaka (on Tuesday night). Sometimes that can go off your ankle and you can’t continue the start. That’s why you cannot be caught without a long men because you will fry your bullpen.”
• In my opinion, this is a really tough call. On one hand, Nuno has been pretty bad and it’s difficult to continue to send him out every fifth day when he’s not giving you much of a chance to win. But on the other hand — as we’ve seen with others in the past — it’s never a given that a guy who pitches well out of the pen will also succeed in the rotation. There’s a reason why guys who fail as starters are often converted to relievers — it’s easier to get through a lineup once than it is to do so three or four times. Here’s Warren on why he thinks he’s been so successful out of the pen. “When you know you’re only going out there for one inning, you can leave everything out there and not worry about conserving anything,” he said. “My arm actually responds better than I thought it would to throwing back-to-back days.”
• Of course, this problem could be solved if just one of the Yankees’ injured starters returns soon, and CC Sabathia is the closest to being ready. He threw a 25-pitch bullpen session today and will increase that total when he throws again on Saturday (assuming there are no setbacks between now and then). As for an exact return date, well, good luck with that. “I can’t get give you the exact time but you’re trying to build him up to 90 pitches,” Girardi said. “He threw a bullpen today. Three bullpens and maybe a couple of live BPs and then you start games. So, he’s kind of on that track. I don’t know if it’s the exact track, exactly how long it’s going to take. For me to get into specifics, it doesn’t make a lot of sense because if he needs an extra time here one time. For me the important thing is getting (through it) day-by-day, and every time he goes out and throws another bullpen or goes beyond that, it’s a positive sign. And right now, the signs are positive.”
• In non-Yankees news, but more of an issue that concerns all of baseball, Girardi addressed the use of chewing tobacco. It’s become a hot topic in the days following Tony Gwynn’s death, with some calling for MLB to ban the use of “dip.” Some old school types are against it, but it’s quite clear that Gwynn’s overuse of the substance contributed to his untimely death at the age of 54. “I think you express concerns with all the health things that guys put in their mouth, the repetition and how often they’re doing it,” he said. “These are grown men and I have to be careful about what I talk about and what I don’t talk about, in a sense. I did talk to my son about (it) … and encouraged him to never do it because it is dangerous.”
Associated Press photos