NEW YORK — After re-acquiring pitcher Adam Warren last week from the Cubs as a throw-in for Aroldis Chapman, general manager Brian Cashman expressed optimism on his post-transaction conference call that Warren could return to an effective arm. “Three months of poor pitching have not changed our valuation of Adam Warren,” he said.
What Cashman failed to mention was that pitching coach Larry Rothschild held the passcode to unlocking the pitcher Warren used to be.
In just three outings, Rothschild has helped transform Warren’s once-great slider from a spinning disaster to an out-pitch, and the right-hander is reaping the rewards. After tossing a pair of scoreless frames to earn a win at Citi Field on Monday night, Warren has now thrown four scoreless innings in his second go-around as Yankee, allowing just a hit and a walk while striking out three.
Rothschild, who has worked with Warren ever since his debut in 2012, watched his new big-league arm throw a side session last week and immediately spotted an issue. Warren wasn’t applying enough pressure to the baseball while gripping it.
“He had some ideas right away,” Warren said Monday. “As soon as we kind of got the ‘Hey, good to have you back,’ out of the way, he was right back to business. Having a guy that’s seem me throw four or five years, I feel like he can just look at me and tell me something’s off. He watched a few sliders on flat ground and said, “Alright, let’s try this,” and it kind of clicked.”
Warren’s looser grip was causing his slider to run right-to-left without any bite, making it easier to hit, and a bit harder to locate.
“It was too flat, more of a cutter,” said Warren. “So I think we’re getting more depth out of it, and then we can turn it back into a cutter when we need to. We’re just getting it back to a swing-and-miss pitch instead of an off-the-barrel pitch.”
In Chicago, his slider only had a vertical break of 3.66 inches according to Brooks Baseball, as opposed to the steeper marks he’s seen in New York. As soon as he and Rothschild chatted, Warren went out and threw two sliders that dropped an average of 1.95 inches in an appearance against Houston, which actually means the pitch broke nearly two inches lower, contrary to what common sense tells you. The sample size in pinstripes is small, but we can take Warren’s word for it after looking at some film.
Here’s a sampling of Warren’s old slider from earlier this season, in a June game against the Diamondbacks.
On Sunday night, in a ninth-inning showdown with Mets shortstop Wilmer Flores, Warren broke out the slider four separate times. It had more “depth” to it. On the evening, he threw it 13 times and saw a 2.66-inch vertical break.
That’s not all, though, his slider has also gained more life moving horizontally. Its horizontal break, according to Brooks, has been well over the 2.88 inches it averaged with the Cubs, topping out at 4.23 inches on July 27. The pitch is moving like it did last season.
“The slider’s better, the fastball location is way better, and I think there’s that comfortability with the team, the catchers, the pitching coach,” Warren said, in summation. “I feel like I’m more aggressive, which I wasn’t in Chicago.”
The Yankees have shipped away two of the most dominant relievers in the game, and Warren certainly won’t come close to replacing the void they left behind. But with his slider back in the fold, he can log productive innings out of the bullpen or in the rotation. That’s much more than you expect to get out of a deal-sweetener.
Photo: Brad Penner / USA Today Sports