When Adam Warren reported to the Yankees’ minor league camp in February, he recalled it had been a decade since his initial taste of something that is decidedly different from what big-league spring training is about.
Warren, 32 and easily the oldest player in minor league camp, had eight years in the big leagues but was coming back from early September Tommy John surgery on his right elbow while with the Padres.
He signed a two-year minor league deal with the Yankees and figured the first season would be used to recover from the surgery that was done by Dr. Keith Meister in Texas and put him in position to compete for a Yankees bullpen spot in 2021 spring training.
Little did Warren know that his spring training in Tampa was going to be nothing like anything he saw since being selected by the Yankees out of North Carolina in the fourth round of the 2009 draft.
First, MLB shut down spring training on March 12 due to the coronavirus. Then, on March 15, the first of two Yankees minor leaguers tested positive for the coronavirus and the players at the complex were quarantined and eventually sent home on March 26.
Warren has a house in the Tampa area, so he wasn’t quarantined like others who were housed in hotels.
“Fortunately, I was home. Talking to some of the guys it sounded like a bad situation,” Warren told The Post via phone. “It was kind of scary because you are kind of waiting to see if you would get it. The guys stuck in the hotel were glad to go home once it was over.”
Warren had progressed to throwing from 50 feet when minor league camp was shuttered. Since, he has invented ways to continue to throw while building strength in his elbow with weights — and his rehab program is on schedule.
“I have been in touch with the trainers and [Greg] Pav [rehab pitching coach] and they have given me a program where I have been able to keep throwing using whatever I can, whether it is a backstop and my wife helps getting the ball to me,’’ Warren said. “Fortunately I haven’t missed a beat too much with my rehab. The communication I have had with everybody has been great. We are doing the best we can with the situation.’’
Prior to the surgery Warren went 4-1 with a 5.34 ERA in 25 games for the Padres, who signed him as a free agent after the 6-foot-1, 224-pounder left the Mariners following the 2018 season. The Yankees, who had traded him to Seattle that season, received international bonus slot money in return.
It was the second time Warren was dealt by the Yankees. The first was after the 2015 season, when he was traded to the Cubs for Starlin Castro. In July 2016, Warren was dealt back to the Yankees with Aroldis Chapman going to the Cubs in the trade that brought Gleyber Torres to the Yankees.
Knowing the surgery would erase his 2020 season, Warren was hoping the Yankees had interest.
“The Yankees were my ideal team because we have a house in the Tampa area and obviously the familiarity with the Yankees organization,’’ said Warren, who has a lifetime 20-20 record and a 3.18 ERA in 246 games (20 starts) for the Yankees and is 30-24 with a 3.53 ERA in 323 big-league games. “That was team number one that we set out to see if they were interested. Once they said they were interested, we didn’t look anywhere else. It was a situation where I didn’t have that much bargaining power and I wanted to catch on with a team that would take a chance on me. I was very fortunate the Yankees wanted to do that. It’s pretty tough for a player who isn’t going to play the first year of the contract. It was pretty neat and pretty cool for me that they would take that chance on me.’’
The popular timetable for recovery from Tommy John surgery is 12-16 months and if a big-league season is played in 2020 and there are games in October and November, there is a small chance Warren could be ready.
“The possibility of the season pushed back a little bit if they do start playing this year kind of tempts me to come back quicker, but the timing of the surgery it would feel like I am rushing back,’’ Warren said. “The most realistic goal is treat this as a gone year. I won’t be playing competitively [in 2020], but I think I will be ready for 2021.’’