Adam Warren: The surprise of the Yankees starting rotation

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This past Saturday night in a battle with Los Angeles Angels, Yankees manager Joe Girardi took the slow, methodical walk from the home dugout on the first base side at Yankee Stadium with two outs in the top of the sixth inning to the pitcher's mound. His team had a 7-2 lead.

After throwing a career high 105 pitches and giving up just two runs over six and two thirds innings, Girardi made the call to the bullpen and took the ball from starter Adam Warren. As lefthander Justin Wilson jogged out of the Yankee bullpen, Warren handed the baseball over to Girardi and walked off of the mound back to the dugout while the near capacity crowd that witnessed the spectacle rose from the seats to give Warren a standing ovation.

The Bronx Bombers went on to win the game 8-2 and in the process Warren earned his fourth win of the season. Not many would have thought that Warren (4-4, 3.64 ERA) was capable of performing the way he has thus far in 2015. Aside from Masahiro Tanaka (4-1, 2.48 ERA) and Michael Pineda (7-2, 3.33 ERA), Warren has been New York's best starting pitcher.

Keep in mind that veteran C.C Sabathia (3-7, 5.25 ERA) and hard-throwing Nathan Eovaldi (5-1, 4.16 ERA) are also in the rotation.

Warren was selected by the Yankees in the fourth round of the 2009 amateur draft out of the University of North Carolina. He had a career 3.52 ERA as a Tar Heel and was a key pitcher in his team's rotation that included future major league arms in Alex Wood and Matt Harvey.

The righthander was called up during the 2012 season and made his debut against the Chicago White Sox. Warren struggled giving up six runs on eight hits in just over two innings and was sent back down to the minor league.

Warren appeared in 34 games for the Yankees in 2013 mostly as a reliever. He started twice. Warren had a modest 3.39 ERA and a 1.43 WHIP in 77 innings. He also picked up one save and had a 3-2 record.

The issue with Warren was his velocity with a fastball that maxed out at about 89 to 91 miles per hour. The lower fastball velocity made his off speed pitches less effective because they were only a few ticks below his fastball. He had a good arsenal consisting of six pitches, four seem fastball, two seem fastball, cutter, curve ball, change up, and slider which is perfect for a starter.

Warren was in a competition for a spot in the starting rotation during spring training last year but was not awarded the role. Instead, Warren was sent to the bullpen where he became a horse for Girardi. To be effective in the pen, Warren needed to use a different mentality.

In relief, a pitcher just needs to hunker down for one inning and attack hitters. You don't need to worry about pitch counts, only throwing hard and hitting the strike zone.

That is exactly what Warren did in 2014, becoming New York's seventh inning man. He pitched to a 3-6 record in 69 games and 78.2 innings. Warren had a fantastic 2.97 ERA along with a 1.11 WHIP and even had three saves.

By employing that attack first mentality on the mound as a relief pitcher, Warren threw much harder and faster. His fast ball velocity rose to about 93 to 95 miles per hour. Sometimes, Warren even hit 97 miles per hour on the gun. His time in the bullpen paid dividends for his career.

This past spring training, Warren was put in the same situation he was in the previous year, in a battle for a spot in the starting rotation. Warren beat out teammate Esmil Rodgers for the position in spring training and has skyrocketed ever since by re-adjusting his approach to that of a starter.

Thus far, Warren sports a 1.20 WHIP and has been giving Girardi something that many other members of the Yankees rotation are not, length. He has been on the hill into the seventh inning for the majority of his outings. More amazingly, Warren is only making $500,000 on a one year deal this season.

Despite not having the electric "stuff" that most scouts and general managers covet in pitchers, Warren has been performing well with good "stuff" and there is nothing wrong with that.

With Ivan Nova scheduled to make his return in the coming months, Warren's time in the starting rotation could be numbered. A return to the bullpen where he thrived last season is likely and his presence there makes this Yankees team even more dangerous.

Warren would give Girardi a third option in the latter part of games aside from Dellin Betances (4-0, 0.28 ERA, 2 saves) and closer Andrew Miller (0-1, 1.03 ERA, 17 saves). A late inning lineup consisting of Warren, Batances and Miller would help preserve Yankee leads after six innings and assure many victories.

Warren will not make it an easy decision for Girardi if he continues to throw the way he has been so far. He has earned his keep in the Yankees starting rotation and deserves to have the title of No.3 starter.

Evan Bruno is a sophomore at Rutgers University. He works as a staff writer for his school newspaper the Daily Targum covering Rutgers athletics. Evan is from New Jersey and is a passionate fan of many New York sports teams. Follow him on Twitter: @evancb55
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