(Just chillin'. Courtesy of Getty Images)
Adam Warren will make his Major League debut tonight, and he's got some big shoes (and pants) to fill in CC Sabathia's rotation spot. He's the 3rd of the previously-vaunted 5-man Triple-A staff to make an appearance in the show this year, and it wouldn't be unfair to say that his opportunity is the best one out of the 3. With Sabathia on the shelf for a few weeks and Andy for a few months, Warren has a real chance to become a fixture in the rotation for the foreseeable future. I had Warren ranked as my #7 prospect in the Yankee system in the inaugural AB4AR Top 30 Prospects list last December, but with a lot of time passing since then, it's probably good to reacquaint ourselves with him.
Warren saw a dip in his performance and peripherals upon making the jump to Triple-A last year (4.05 FIP, 6.56 K/9, 3.13 BB/9), and the assumption was that after a year of experience at the level he would be able to make the necessary adjustments to bump the numbers back up. That wasn't the case to start the season, as Warren gave up 24 ER and 7 HR in 43.1 IP through his first 8 starts (4.98 ERA) and didn't show the combination of solid stuff and plus command that had gotten him this far. He's been much better in his last 7 starts, giving up just 13 ER and 2 HR in 43 IP (2.72 ERA). With the injuries and ineffectiveness surrounding him in the Empire State rotation, and David Phelps still stretching back out to a full starter's pitch count, Warren was the easy choice to make for this call up.
Warren has changed his offereings up a bit since the last time I profiled him. He still works off of his low-90s fastball, and when he's commanding it well he can put some movement on it to both sides of the plate. But his curveball and changeup have become his 3rd and 4th options as his slider his improved to his #1 offspeed out pitch. He can mix the changeup in to keep hitters honest, and if he can do that tonight it will serve him well, but fastball-slider has become Warren's forte.
There might be some nerves tonight for Warren, and it would only make him human to be a bit nervous making his first career start in Yankee Stadium in place of the team's ace. As for expectations, I think the Yankees would be happy with 5-6 innings of 3-run ball. If Warren can command his fastball and not fall behind in the count to what is a pretty good White Sox lineup, it will help him set up his secondary offerings better. If he can't throw strikes, he could be in for a long night. In either case, this is a great opportunity for Warren to show what he can do and for us fans and prospect huggers to get a first real look at him.