Adam Warren ready for whatever role he's handed

The righty has been efficient in relief but could be an option as a starter
06/19/2014 12:11 AM ET
By Lou DiPietro

Adam Warren lowered his ERA to 2.09 on Wednesday.(AP)
Adam Warren has had as good a season out of the bullpen as one could've asked for, and he continued that Wednesday with a strong two-inning, three-strikeout performance that left him with a 2.09 ERA and 39 strikeouts in 39 innings over his first 31 appearances.

And yet, if you ask him, he still sees his career path sending him out to the mound only once every five days, filling a role he had in all 90 of his minor-league appearances.

"Right now I'm concentrating on relief because I've been doing that this year," he said Wednesday, "but long-term, yes (I see myself as a starter), because that's how I came up and that's how I've been throughout my career."

As he is wont to do, Warren classified that latter desire by saying the "right" thing about his current role, even as scuttlebutt has him as a candidate to replace someone (likely Vidal Nuno) in the rotation sooner rather than later.

And to that, he says bring it on if that's how things shake out.

"I'm just trying to take things day-by-day and concentrating on being in the bullpen right now, but I'm definitely open to (moving back to the rotation) because I've always wanted to be a starter," he said.

Warren's line says he's doing just fine in the pen, and he's relished and even prospered with the opportunity, but given the career path he's had so far, another move (even if it's not this year) isn't exactly a far-fetched thought. The righty has been a jack-of-all-trades for the Yankees over the last three years, making his major-league debut in a spot start in 2012 before becoming the long man in 2013 and eventually a late-inning option this season.

He's loved them all, because he loves being in the majors and helping the Yankees win ballgames, and even said Wednesday that he seems to feel better pitching every day in the late innings rather than being a multi-inning option a few times a week.

"I think my arm has felt better when I throw an inning and come back the next day and throw again; I like throwing more often, and I've responded better than I thought I would've to that," he said. "When you know you're going out there for one inning, you can leave everything out there, but if you know you're going two or three, you might want to think a little more about it."

All that said, the rotation's injury situation and flux makes him a candidate by default. Warren knows he could give 45 to 50 pitches in a spot start today if asked, and figures that just like in spring training, he would add 15 every start until he was fully stretched out to 90 to 100.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi acknowledged the same, and in the past has said he would let a guy like Warren get stretched out in the majors instead of sending him to Triple-A - and that thought is helped by the fact that right now, the Yankees have four guys (including Warren) who could pick up the slack.

"If you end up doing it, I think you have to have a couple long men, because if you're stretching someone out, chances are you'll have to use a long man and you hate to ever be without one," Girardi said. "You don't necessarily think your pitchers will get knocked out early or get hurt, but you look at the ball that was hit at (Masahiro) Tanaka (Tuesday night); sometimes that can go off your ankle, and you can't continue. That's why you can't be caught without a long man, because you will fry your bullpen, and you may not have enough people to get through a game."

That thought prevails any time a starter fails to give optimal length - which, for at least the first two if not three starts, a still-stretching Warren would do - and Warren himself has already adapted to the bullpen mentality of not wanting to let down the guys around him.

"The toughest thing for me is knowing that the bullpen would have to work harder on the day I pitch and pick me up," he said. "I'd hate to work the bullpen hard, but I'll leave that up to Joe and them to figure out."

All of that flip-flopping could mess with a man's head, but for the easy-going Warren, it's all in the course of a career - and he already knows how he'll go about things if a move happens.

"I feel like I'll have to transition a bit because I've been in the mindset of a reliever; it's definitely two different mindsets. It's more difficult than most people think," he said. "I think (as a reliever) I don't have to hold back as much and can throw harder, but I feel like I'm still using all my pitches the same. As a starter, you maybe lose a little velocity because you can't throw as hard right away, so you have to be a little more careful with your fastball."

Depending on who you ask, Warren could've either helped or hurt his own cause with a dominant performance Wednesday, one that saw him throw 29 pitches over two innings and retire all six batters he faced, three of them by strikeout.

If you ask Girardi, it might have been the nail in the rotation talk's coffin.

"He's extremely valuable in the bullpen. I know there's a lot of talk about stretching him out and all that, but this guy has been pivotal in our bullpen and has given us distance," Girardi said, "and it's a case where we can use him two or three days out of five. Right now we're going to stick with what we've got."

But, as you could probably guess by now, to Warren, whatever his role is, it certainly is what it is.

"I'm just going to keep pitching and let it play out however it does."

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