Tuesday, February 28, 2017


Joe Girardi's annual  long reliever competition is off and running, and so far it looks like a dead heat among the young contestants who all mistakenly believe they're  auditioning for a regular turn in the rotation. 

All but one, that is.

Adam Warren, who along with Bryan Mitchell, Luis Cessa, Luis Severino and Chad Green is hoping to win one of the team's two vacant rotation spots, nailed his two-inning spring starting debut Saturday; pounding the strike zone with his full complement of pitches, efficiently disposing of all six batters he faced and striking out the last two for a finale. 

Not surprising coming from the only Yankee besides ace Masahiro Tanaka with at least 17 starts in 2015 to finish with a sub-4.00 ERA. 

3.66 to be exact. That was  just .15 points higher  than Tanaka's on just seven fewer starts. But then he got kicked to the bullpen after Chris Capuano and Esmil Rogers showed they had nothing left in the tank and he got burned to a cinder  throwing the equivalent of nearly four more full games in intermittent spot relief the rest of the way until he had to be shut down. 

Our second best starting pitcher. What a rotten waste of a perfectly good hairy arm. That was just one season ago. Another Joba-cide in the first degree.

So wouldn't you  think after Saturday's stellar outing he'd be pumped up about this latest "competition" for a shot at the rotation?

Well, as it turns out, he knows better, and he told NJ Advance Media's Randy Miller so -- and in the process it appears he exposed a disconnect in the company line Joe and his pitching coach are supposed to be spreading regarding this circus masquerading as a rotation contest.

"I think in 2015 I really figured out that I really wanted to start," Warren said. "I really enjoyed seeing hitters multiple times, working through a game, throwing 100 pitches and going deep I still love pitching in general, so it's not like I'm unhappy in the bullpen. I just like starting a little bit more and that's where I'd like to be."

But ...

"I talked to (pitching coach) Larry (Rothschild) about that the other day. He's like, 'It's probably going to hurt you that you're good out of the bullpen and you're flexible too.' I was like, 'I know.'"

"I didn't say that," Girardi said, referring to Warren's strong bullpen resume possibly sabotaging his bid to start. "Some people might view it that way. I don't necessarily view it that way because you know that he's been successful in both places where some of these other guys you're not sure. But I think you have to take a long look at it and decide what's best in the long run. For this year, who gives us the best chance to win?"

Yep, some people might view it that way, Joe. Like your own pitching coach and de facto number two starting pitcher from 2015, apparently. What must young starting pitchers up and down  our system think and say about their career path ending up playing in the Bronx, I wonder. 

There's other signs to believe this contest is just the usual pre-season lipstick on  Joe's  and Larry Rothschild's juggling act that bounces  young starters between the rotation, bullpen and the Scranton Shuttle to keep the cost of relievers and starters under budget -- and in the process can infamously delay (and in some cases has been known to outright reverse) years of progress made in their development. 

Speaking to NJ Advance Media's Brendan Kuty on Saturday, Joe casually but firmly dismissed Brian Cashman's offseason assertion that Severino wouldn't be a candidate for Joe's revolving door of young bullpen swing men and  that he would either be a starter in the Bronx on Opening Day or a starter down in the minors working to come back as one. 

"We really haven't talked but I think you have to look at him both ways, too, because he did a good job in that role," Girardi said.

So Severino, like Warren,  is also already being told he's likely not auditioning for a starting spot with the big club but more of a sometimes starter/most times bullpen role because of his "good job" in that latter role. This in spite of what Joe's boss publicly said after being informed by more informed baseball people in the organization  it was this very role that ruined him last year and isn't likely to be conducive to his -- or anybody's -- development as a future MLB starter.

In Joe's eyes, if Tanaka was still on his rookie contract or any kind of  team-friendly deal he  would be a prime candidate  for a trip on the Joba-cide Express too. 

In Joe's binder, if you're a starter who has proven talent and a team-friendly contract, you're available for anything, any day, anytime and your future is unimportant. But if you're overpaid to be a starter, your place in the rotation is secure.

What kind of ridiculous junior GM fantasy baseball logic is it that would prompt the manager of a team desperately in need of major league-caliber  starting pitching -- the most precious hard-to-find commodity in the game -- to be considering Warren and Severino, his only two rotation candidates with any solid proven starting experience, for the role of middle relievers, arguably the least valuable, cheapest commodity available in the game. 

Brian's done a masterful job of restocking the farm, reloading the lineup with youth and re-balancing the budget while struggling under  a tight-fisted boss above him, an impatient fan base surrounding him and push back from a skipper below him who -- like the one he replaced -- has his own way of doing things and declines to yield to even the most obvious conclusions easily.

Joe's annual fake news about spring rotation battles isn't anything new. But in this crucial season where the youth movement is finally about to come of age as the rotation reaches critical mass,  Joe's resistance to change is looking more and more like the biggest weakness on the Yankees lineup card.

 --Barry Millman
BYB Writer
Twitter: @nyyankeefanfore

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