Warren takes step forward in battle for rotation spot

Warren takes step forward in battle for rotation spot

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Adam Warren said that it is only human nature to peek over a shoulder and see how the competition is handling the Yankees' fifth-starter race, but if the right-hander takes care of business like he did on Friday, there will be little to worry about.

Warren showcased his sharpest stuff of the spring in New York's 11-2 Grapefruit League victory over the Tigers, scattering four hits over five innings of one-run ball with no walks and three strikeouts. His lone blemish was a solo Yoenis Cespedes homer in the fifth.

"I feel like I'm getting close," Warren said. "Just spotting the fastball, getting ahead in the count for the most part with all my pitches. I feel like I'm getting there and a lot more consistent with everything in my delivery. I was pleased. I just want to take the next step next outing and keep building on that."

Warren's outing impressed manager Joe Girardi, one day after he judged Esmil Rogers to be just "OK" after coughing up his first three runs of the spring in a 3 1/3-inning effort against the Braves.

"Good, really good," Girardi said. "He had everything today. He was effective with all his pitches. He was ahead in the count."

Girardi has said that he is beginning to evaluate these outings more seriously, and so it is only natural to compare that with the "we've seen him sharper" that he offered in analysis of Rogers' outing. Girardi said that it would be premature to declare a front-runner.

"Let's let them have the whole body of work, because things can change quickly in a week or 10 days," Girardi said. "Adam threw the ball exceptionally well today, and that's what competition does. You're going to have a lot of discussion about it, but you wait until the end."

Girardi said that the fifth-starter competition is likely to come up in meetings several times between now and March 28, when the Yankees would like to have a decision made so the other pitchers can begin preparing for their bullpen roles.

In addition to Warren and Rogers, the Yanks are evaluating Chase Whitley -- who threw three scoreless innings on Friday -- as well as Bryan Mitchell and non-roster invitee Scott Baker. Warren had a 2.97 ERA in 69 relief appearances for New York last season and said he does not feel any added pressure because of the competition.

"It does make it feel more like a real game, I guess, just because you want to go out there and do well," Warren said. "It definitely adds a little bit to it. I'm not trying to put any extra pressure on myself. I already put enough pressure on myself as it is."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.