NEW YORK -- Adam Warren is a victim of his own success.
The 26-year-old right-hander is a starter by training and inclination. He was deep in the mix for the No. 5 starter's job in spring training, the one eventually won by Michael Pineda. And this very week, his was the only name brought up by both manager Joe Girardi and GM Brian Cashman when asked to name a possible replacement for the faltering Vidal Nuno.
And yet, to borrow one of Don King's favorite phrases, Warren has become a collaborator in his own demise.
Translation: He is simply too good out of the bullpen for the Yankees to seriously consider putting him into the rotation.
Warren worked two key innings in Wednesday night's 7-3 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays, coming on in relief of Chase Whitley, who pitched well but used up too many bullets to get past the fifth inning. At the time, the Yankees had a 4-2 lead, not nearly enough against a lineup that boasts a former 54-home run hitter who goes by the nickname Joey Bats, another guy who already has 20 home runs (Edwin Encarnacion) and three others in double figures when the entire Yankees team has one, Mark Teixeira, with as many as 11.
New York Yankees
The Yankees needed someone to shut the Blue Jays down at that point, and Warren was that someone. In the sixth, he struck out the side. In the seventh, he had the easiest of 1-2-3 innings, getting Colby Rasmus, Munenori Kawasaki and Jose Reyes to bounce into consecutive 4-3s.
In doing so, he held the Blue Jays at bay long enough for the Yankees to tack on four seventh-inning runs -- three of them on Brian McCann's bases-loaded triple (you read that right) -- to make it easy for the rest of the bullpen to finish it off.
It is evidence of how much this game meant to the Yankees that even with a five-run lead -- it was 7-2 heading into the top of the 8th -- Girardi went to Dellin Betances (another dominant, two-strikeout inning) and his closer, David Robertson, in a non-save situation to nail it down.
But the key innings were pitched by Warren, when the game was still close and there were still a lot of outs to be gotten.
Told after the game that he would never get a chance to start again if he kept pitching like that out of the pen, Warren just laughed.
"I haven’t really thought about it that much," he said. "If I ever get a chance to start, we’ll see how it translates then, but right now, just focusing on being in the bullpen and getting outs. I'm just going to pitch and let it all play out."
If nothing else, Girardi's use of Warren Wednesday night ensures that Nuno will make his next scheduled start, on Saturday against the Orioles, and if there is something in the works for Warren down the road, the manager is keeping it a well-kept secret.
"I know there’s been a lot of talk about him starting and stretching him out, and all that," said Girardi, conveniently forgetting that he was one of the talkers, "But this is a guy that's been pivotal in our bullpen, and has given us distance. Sometimes you can use him two and maybe three times out of five days as well. And you know, it’s difficult to stretch a guy out. You can do it. But right now, we’re going to stick with what we’ve got."
In fairness, Warren has been much more effective as a relief pitcher than he had as a starter. He has made three starts and won one of them, against the Astros in the last week of last season.
But out of the pen, he has a 2.08 ERA, has struck out 39 hitters in 39 innings and has a WHIP of 1.102, roughly equivalent to Robertson's (1.09), although nowhere near as good as Betances' 0.720.
"I feel like I’m still using my pitches the same was as I did as a starter," he said. "But I think I can not hold back as much and maybe throw a little bit harder."
Warren's fastball now regularly clocks in at 95 mph.
Girardi offered another peek into his thinking when, given the chance to use Shawn Kelley, who was his setup man before going on the DL for more than a month with a lower back strain, he went to Betances instead, even though he had worked two innings and thrown 21 pitches the night before.
"We warmed him up in the fifth," Girardi said of Kelley. "But with what he’s been through, we were just careful. We didn’t want to get him back up again because he was hot. We're just being a little bit cautious right now.”
So if Kelley's use will be limited for the time being, and Betances -- who has made 30 appearances, one fewer than Warren -- needs to have his innings monitored, then Warren will truly be an vital part of this bullpen.
And until Cashman comes up with something around the trade deadline, Nuno will remain a regular part of the Yankees rotation.
"He's extremely valuable there," Girardi said of Warren the reliever, the words dropping like an epitaph, for now at least, on Adam Warren's career as a big-league starter.
Garden party: Brett Gardner had the fifth four-hit game of his career, singling in each of his first four at-bats, and scoring twice. Gardner is hitting .368 in his last nine games (14-for-38) with a triple, two HRs and five RBIs. He is also hitting .345 in 30 games at home, including four of his six home runs.
Fifteen and counting: Wednesday's win was the Yankees' 15th straight against the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium, their longest winning streak against a visiting team since they won 19 straight against the Cleveland Indians between 1960 and 1962.