I don’t know about you, but the weight of Andy Pettitte’s injury hit me like a freight train on Wednesday afternoon. To put aside the on-the-field implications of the injury, I feel so terrible for the guy. He didn’t sign up for this. He didn’t make this glorious comeback filled with pomp and circumstance, only to make nine starts before suffering a significant injury that keeps him away from the diamond for two months or more. It’s the antithesis of what he wanted and what we all expected out of Andy’s comeback attempt. Who knows, maybe he calls it quits for good, maybe he returns in September for one last hurrah, or maybe he comes back next year too in order to recapture the prospect of pitching one last full season. But all we know right now is that Andy is gone and the next guy has to step up and take his place, and that guy is Adam Warren.
Last month, I briefly discussed the 24 year old Warren and my excitement to see him pitch in person when I go catch an Empire State Yankees game in three weeks, but it looks like I won’t have to wait much longer, as Warren will start in CC Sabathia’s place on Friday against the Chicago White Sox. Personally, I’ve only been more excited for a Yankees game only a handful of times this year. I’m really looking forward to seeing how Warren does in his major league debut, and there’s reason to believe he may surprise us as well as his new found teammates and coaches too.
Warren’s arsenal of pitches is as follows. A decent fastball in the low to mid 90’s that can touch 95, an average to slightly above average slider (which he recently started throwing), a curveball of similar description, and a passable changeup if paired well with the fastball. He tends to pitch down in the zone and in turn records a lot of groundball outs, but if he leaves his non-electric pitches up at the major league level, they have the potential to be hit a long way. Hopefully, we shouldn’t have to worry about that though, because Warren has been on fire as of late in AAA.
Warren’s record currently stands at 5-5 with an unimpressive 3.86 ERA and a hideous 1.459 WHIP, but these numbers can be deceiving. After posting an unsightly 6.10 ERA in April, Warren has sharpened his mechanics and has seen his numbers fall in response. His 4.15 ERA in May has given way to a spotless 2.03 ERA in five June starts, a month in which he didn’t surrender a run while pitching five or more innings in three of those starts. He has only struck out 18 hitters in 31 June innings, but he’s issued just eight free passes and given up just one long ball in that time span, giving him a 1.12 WHIP and a 3-2 record for the month. He’s been getting better and better with each start, and this may be the perfect time for Warren to take his talents down the Deegan to the big ballpark in the Bronx. If he keeps the ball down against the power laden White Sox, Warren should be in for a solid performance in his first career major league start.
Warren seems like a perfect candidate for spot-start duty, but for how long will he be taking the ball every fifth day for the Yankees? With Andy Pettitte requiring two months of recovery, there are around 10 to 12 starts up for grabs and at least three arms vying for the chance to make those starts. Once Sabathia returns from his adductor strain in three weeks, the competition between Warren, Freddy Garcia, David Phelps, and possibly a minor leaguer like D.J. Mitchell will really heat up and join the mix. Can Sweaty Freddy translate his recent bullpen success and new found fastball velocity into a valiant six week stint in the rotation or will a young gun step up and fill the shoes of the injured veteran? I’m leaning towards the latter.
Like the Katy Perry song goes, I’ve been hot and cold on Freddy Garcia all year long. Once Spring Training rolled around, I adamantly believed that he deserved a spot in the 2012 starting rotation. By the time he was yanked from said rotation early on in the year, I strongly considering jumping on the “DFA Freddy” bandwagon unless he drastically and suddenly improved. Well, he’s been doing that of late and all of a sudden he isn’t my worst enemy anymore. He’s been pitching very well as the long man out of the bullpen and even his velocity, which was M.I.A. in April, has mostly returned. But with that said, I can’t see Garcia maintaining his 90mph fastball up through September and it’s hard for me to believe that he will be effective in more than just two inning bursts. That leaves the minor leaguers to battle for the vacant starter spot.
Brian Cashman said it himself that if David Phelps’ recently demoted arm were stretched out, that he would in fact be starting instead of Warren. Phelps intrigues me, as I haven’t been really able to decide whether or not I would like to see him be the guy who gobbles up most, if not all of Andy’s starts this summer. I think I like him, and he’s shown flashes of excellence in the bullpen earlier this year, but he was a little too inconsistent for my liking. In appearances where he pitched more than two innings, he seemed to be nothing more than average, if not below average. Once his arm gets stretched out enough for him to be a viable starter once again, he definitely deserves consideration from the big league club if Warren struggles, and I wouldn’t be all that surprised if he usurps Warren. Whichever way Cashman and the front office decide to go, there probably won’t be a sizeable difference one way or the other, unless Warren either excels or simply implodes. Ironic, considering how they battled each other for long relief job in the spring, and now they’re might be a battle brewing between then for the prolonged spot starter’s gig over the summer. Competition makes players better, though, and hopefully Phelps and Warren both grow from this experience. It can only help.
But at the end of the day, it’s nearly impossible to replace a legend who was pitching oh-so-well. Get well soon, Andy. Hopefully the kids will have put you in a position to pitch us into the playoffs come September.