When Adam Warren was competing for the fifth and final spot in the rotation during spring training, he could have only dreamed of being a major contributor to the Yankees rotation in early June. However, 57 games into the 2015 Yankees season, it is clear that Adam Warren is not only the unquestioned fifth starter, but also an integral part to the Yankees pitching staff.
Warren, who was drafted in the fourth round of the 2009 Amateur draft by the Yankees, was mainly a reliever for the first 2 years of his major league career. In 2014, Warren had an excellent year in the bullpen, posting a sub 3.00 ERA (2.97) while primarily pitching in the seventh or eighth inning for the Bronx Bombers. Yet, in his first two full seasons as a pro, Warren only started 2 games for the club and many within the organization were uncertain if he could be a successful starting pitcher in the major leagues.
Warren has certainly been the underdog numerous times during his rise to respectability in the Yankees rotation. As mentioned earlier, Adam was not even guaranteed a spot in the rotation entering spring training and had to compete for the final spot. His main competitor was Esmil Rogers, a six-year veteran who had previously played for the Rockies, Indians, and Blue Jays. Entering spring training, Rogers had 42 career starts under his belt, while Warren, as previously mentioned, had only started 2 games his entire professional career. Yet, Warren was able to out-pitch the veteran Rogers in the spring and secure the final spot in the rotation.
The next challenge for Warren came when Chris Capuano, a seasoned eleven-year veteran, returned off the DL from a strained quad that had kept him sidelined the first two months of the season. Capuano, who has played for six teams in his major league career, was re-signed by the Yankees in the offseason specifically to be the team’s fifth starter. Although the two were both able to pitch in the Yankees rotation for a short period of time due to Masahiro Tanaka’s injury, it was clear that either Warren or Capuano would not remain in the rotation upon Tanaka’s return. Once again, the inexperienced Warren found himself competing for his job with an established, wily veteran.
However, from the time Capuano made his return (May 17th) to Tanaka’s return (June 3rd), Warren rose to the occasion and out- performed Capuano. In Adam’s three starts during this period he posted an impressive 2.34 ERA and gave up less than a hit per inning, while Capuano posted a displeasurable 7.23 ERA and gave up 18 hits in 11.2 innings pitched during the same span. By having out-pitched another veteran in a competition for the fifth spot in the Yankees rotation, Warren had proven his ability as a legitimate major league pitcher and remained in the rotation after Tanaka’s return.
Despite Warren’s success as a starter in 2015, many are still questioning what his role will be down the stretch of the Yankees season. With Ivan Nova on the mend, manager Joe Girardi will be faced with a very difficult decision about his starting rotation in the near future. Michael Pineda, Masahiro Tanaka, and Nathan Evoldi are all firmly cemented in the rotation and barring something unforeseen, will not be removed. That leaves three pitchers: CC Sabathia, the aforementioned Nova, and Warren to battle for the final two spots in the rotation. Nova, who is in the final stages of his recovery from Tommy John Surgery, is fully expected to regain his starting spot considering his resume as a starter and lack thereof as a reliever. CC Sabathia is currently in the midst of his worst statistical season of his career, posting a 3-7 record and 5.38 ERA. Also, the Yankees have won only five of his thirteen starts. In comparison, the Yankees have won eight of Adam Warren’s twelve starts this season. Warren also has an ERA of 3.78, almost 2.00 less than that of CC. However, many predict that it will be Sabathia who will remain in the rotation upon Ivan Nova’s imminent return.
The future of Adam Warren in the Yankees 2015 rotation remains to be seen. The 15-year veteran with 211 career wins certainly has the built in advantage over a third year player in his first full year as a starter. Also, the recent injury of closer Andrew Miller has illuminated the Yankees need for a late inning right-handed reliever and Warren’s bullpen experience could make him the perfect in-house candidate to fill the void. Whether his contribution to the Yankees AL East title push is as a starter or reliever, Warren’s rise to relevancy has been truly remarkable. While he was battling for a spot in the rotation in March, the last thing Warren was thinking about was helping the Yankees playoff push down the stretch of the season. However, Warren has been and will continue to be as important as any player on the Yankees in their quest to return to the postseason. Regardless of his role, the Yankees need their 2009 fourth round pick. They need Adam Warren.