Adam Warren may not be the most hyped of Yankees pitching prospects entering 2012, although that also may be a testament to the organization's depth coming up at the Triple-A level. Warren enters 2012 as the Yankees' No. 10 prospect and No. 3 right-hander behind Dellin Betances and the newly acquired Jose Campos.
In two-and-a-half seasons, the 6-foot-2 starter has made his way to the top of the system ladder. New York handed Warren the ball for its first Spring Training game this year, and he figures to be one of the team's first few callups should the Bombers need mound help this summer.
A righty from North Carolina, Warren graduated fifth in his class from New Bern (N.C.) High School and was selected in the fourth round of the 2009 Draft by the Yankees out of UNC. He went 6-8 with a 3.60 ERA and 111 strikeouts in 27 starts last season as an International League All-Star at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
We caught up with the 24-year-old this week before a game in Tampa.
MiLB.com: What kind of things are you working on this spring?
Adam Warren: The main thing would be my slider. I [want to] be able to throw something with runners on and get a swing and miss. That's what I've been missing. I've been working on my curveball, that's gotten better too. I knew I needed to have a breaking ball that I know, "He can't hit this."
MiLB.com: What's Spring Training been like so far, being up in Major League camp?
Warren: It's been a great experience, I'm a lot more relaxed this year, being its my second year. Knowing what to do and what's expected of me has made it more relaxed for me. But it's still an honor to work with some of these guys.
MiLB.com: You kind of got thrown into it quickly this spring, starting the Yankees' first Spring Training game against South Florida. What was that like?
Warren: It was surprisingly a little nerve-wracking. You're gonna be a little nervous, you've only faced guys in live BP, but now you get into a live situation and you get the adrenaline flowing. Starting that first game -- for me, that was an honor. I had a lot of fun once I got those first few pitches under my belt. And to be able to pitch with that lineup behind me was a lot of fun.
MiLB.com: Looking ahead to 2012, where do you think you fit in with the Yankees. When do you think you'll get that chance to come up?
Warren: It's hard to say, because it all depends on the breaks you get, how you're playing. For me, I'll just take this season and go out and take care of what I can take care of and just not get caught up with those going up and down.
MiLB.com: Tell me about last season, going up to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. What was the season like?
Warren: It was a change for me, I felt like the hitters were more experienced and a lot of guys had been to the big leagues and had their approach and were not going to stray from it. The first month or so was a big adjustment, just leaning how to call my own game. I always have faith in my catcher, but you have to know your strengths. It took me about a month, but once I got there, I felt like I was comfortable.
MiLB.com: Assuming you start the season at Triple-A, what's the pulse around camp as far as the setup this season, being on the road all year? Is that something you guys have thought about?
Warren: We've talked about it a lot (laughs) -- a lot of jokes about how bad we think it may be and that sort of thing. The approach is, yeah, it's not going to be a great year, not going to be awesome, not like it was Scranton with a nice locker room. I know everyone is trying to do their best to accommodate us, and hopefully we'll have a nice stadium next year. It's going to be miserable, but you'll make yourself miserable -- this is what we're dealt and we'll make the best of it.
MiLB.com:Do your parents still follow your games pretty closely?
Warren: My parents and my grandparents, my whole family. They want to talk about each start, what went wrong, what went well. My grandparents have gotten into it, logging on to the computer. They watch games I don't even pitch in (laughs). I have a great support system and they follow really closely. That helps me whether I'm doing good or bad.
MiLB.com: I remember coming out to see you pitch in Staten Island back in 2009. Have you thought about your journey so far, from debuting there to taking the mound in big league camp with the Yankees today?
Warren: It's one of those things where it feels like it's gone so fast, but that was three years ago, and it sort of feels like a long time ago. I had a lot of fun at Staten Island -- that was the first Minor League experience I ever had. And I still talk to those guys, I still play with a lot of them and I like to reminisce with some of those guys.
MiLB.com: And now you're at Major League camp, surrounded by some big stars and instructors such as Andy Pettitte, who signed to pitch, Goose Gossage and David Wells. What's it been like to take the mound with those guys around you?
Warren: Sometimes you take it for granted who you're in the locker room with -- Goose Gossage and those sort of people who are Hall of Famers. I'm living the dream. For me, that's my favorite moment -- to take a step back and realize how awesome this is.
MiLB.com: You've come up pitching with other top prospects in the Yankees system like Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances, D.J. Mitchell, David Phelps -- what's it been like to pitch alongside those types of talents?
Warren: It's been great because having those guys around makes you work harder and makes you want to pitch better. We've always talked -- it's not really a competition between ourselves, but some people look at it that way. But if I pitch bad and someone else does good, it has no effect on him. We're all good friends.
MiLB.com: You graduated from UNC with a degree in business administration m-- what do you think you'd be doing if you weren't playing baseball?
Warren: If baseball is completely out of the picture ... I have no idea. I felt like business was a safety degree to go with, but I knew I wanted to play baseball. My parents have helped me to stay grounded and taught me the value of getting an education. But I wanted to play baseball. I never actually said, "If this doesn't work out, I'll have this job."
MiLB.com: What was your favorite team growing up, were you a Yankees fan?
Warren: I wasn't a Yankees fan. Early on I was a Braves fan, they were the team closest to me. But once I got into high school, I didn't have a team, just more of favorite players and not a team itself. Being in North Carolina, we just kind of watched games and I admired pitchers, being a pitcher. But I didn't have a team.
MiLB.com: OK, so who was your favorite pitcher?
Warren: I always enjoyed watching Mike Mussina and the way he competed out there. He's probably one of my favorites. Guys who go out there and know they're going to succeed and won't back down -- that's what I love.