HOUSTON — Where the Yankees grabbed the most headlines in their trading of closer Aroldis Chapman was in the acquisition of heralded shortstop prospect Gleyber Torres. But of greater significance to their immediate future was the return of right-hander Adam Warren.
Before being shipped to the Cubs on Dec. 8, 2015, Warren played a critical role on the Yankees staff, going 7-7 with a 3.29 ERA in 43 games (17 starts) last season. By reacquiring Warren, the Yankees might have plugged the one glaring hole in their still-vaunted bullpen: long relief.
“We're going to move (Andrew) Miller back to the ninth and Dellin (Betances) will be the eighth and then how we choose to use Adam (becomes key),” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “Part of the thing that we have struggled with the past month or so is the bridge. It could be a job that's right for Adam in a sense. We could start him because I know he's built up. Those innings are extremely important.
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“It'd be really helpful, guys that can go through a lineup one time and give us three innings in a sense because we have to be somewhat careful with Dellin and Andrew. We've had a lot of close games lately and they've been used a lot. But I think that (long relief) role is important.”
Warren is set to arrive in Houston on Tuesday. The Yankees (51-48) didn't need him in the series opener against the Astros, riding a strong start from Michael Pineda and the usual brilliance of Betances and Miller to a 2-1 victory. Veteran left-hander CC Sabathia (5-8, 4.04 ERA) will start the middle game of the three-game series on Tuesday night.
Sabathia took the loss in his previous start, a 4-1 setback to the Orioles last Thursday on his 36th birthday. Sabathia remains winless in five career starts on his birthday and has allowed at least seven hits and four earned runs in each of his last six starts. He is winless in that stretch.
Sabathia is 1-1 with a 4.80 ERA in two career starts against Houston.
Right-hander Doug Fister (10-6, 3.42 ERA) will start for Houston against the Yankees. He is 2-2 with a 5.22 ERA in five career starts against New York but is coming off a 7-0 win over the Athletics where he tossed seven shutout innings allowing four hits and two walks.
While the Yankees were dealing with the hoopla of the Chapman trade, the Astros (54-45) were managing the hype surround the debut of prized prospect Alex Bregman, who played third base and hit sixth.
Although Bregman finished 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts while stranding six baserunners, his defense at the hot corner was a pleasant surprise. Drafted second overall in 2015 as a shortstop, Bregman moved to third base following his recent promotion to Triple-A Fresno. Against the Yankees on Monday night, he recorded five assists and made a couple strong defensive plays to set a positive tone for his second game.
“He was exceptional on defense at a position he hadn't played too many innings at,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said of Bregman. “The moment wasn't too big for him. The game wasn't too fast. His ability to be athletic and make plays was tested early in the first couple of innings.”