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Matt Harvey and Adam Warren used to be teammates
Alabama-born and North Carolina-educated, Adam Warren looks straight ahead and flashes that friendly Southern smile.
Matt Harvey, the Connecticut kid, sits expressionless, his body slightly tilted, as though he’s in a hurry to get somewhere else.
The description of Warren could come from the Yankees clubhouse where the righthander has weathered some bumps to put himself in contention for a vital spot in a young and remade bullpen. But it doesn’t.
The image of Harvey could be from the Mets clubhouse, where the “Dark Knight of Gotham” rehabs his surgically repaired elbow, waiting for an opportunity to dominate once again on the mound. But it doesn’t.
The depictions of Harvey and Warren come from their University of North Carolina player bio pics. Six years ago, they occupied the same rotation for the Tar Heels, pitching together in 2008 and 2009. The two are now members of different pitching staffs in the same town.
Following Warren’s perfect 1.1 innings of relief during Thursday’s Yankees win, the two have each made 36 major league appearances. But their path to the big leagues has been anything but symmetrical. And their successes and failures anything but similar.
Warren, the elder member of a starting group that also featured fringe major leaguer Alex White, had a biography that easily could have been Harvey’s. His favorite movie was “The Dark Knight,” the moniker that would be attached to Harvey when he took New York by storm in 2013. He modeled his game after Curt Schilling and Josh Beckett, dominant power pitchers who match up far more closely with Harvey than the groundballing Warren.
Warren had a 3.31 ERA during his senior year at UNC. He struck out 103 and walked 39 in 98 innings, winning a game in the College World Series. (The Tar Heels ultimately lost the series, though.) Warren was statistically overshadowed by White and Harvey while at North Carolina, but he graduated with the best winning percentage (.889) in school history.
He was selected in the fourth round of the 2009 draft by the Yankees and put together a solid minor league resume, arriving in the Bronx for a spot start in 2012.
And Warren was terrible.
Facing the White Sox on June 29, Warren survived a shaky first inning with two walks. Afterward, implosion. A.J. Pierzynski homered to start the second inning. Then Dayan Viciedo and Alexei Ramirez singled and Gordon Beckham doubled. By the time the second inning ended it was 4-0 White Sox.
Warren fared no better in the third: home run, single, single, popfly, single. With one out and the White Sox now leading 6-4, Joe Girardi pulled Warren, who was sent back to the minors the next day.
Warren established himself as a reliable relief option in 2013, with a 3.39 ERA in 34 games. He posted a 45.3 percent groundball rate, better than the 44.5 MLB average, and certainly a good trait for any reliever to possess, never mind one pitching home games at Yankee Stadium.
A year after the Yankees drafted Warren, Harvey had just finished another impressive season for UNC. The junior struck out 93 in 90 innings, allowing 76 hits. In three seasons at North Carolina, Harvey struck out 254 in 232.2 innings, allowing only 216 hits.
For a pitcher now considered by some to be a playboy or celebrity, the personal portion of his UNC bio is notably sparse: family information and his college major.
Harvey was drafted seventh overall by the Mets during the summer of 2010 and made only 46 minor-league starts before reaching the majors.
Harvey was very good in 2012, the same year of Warren debuted, posting a 2.73 ERA. But in 2013, he was electric, with a 2.27 ERA and 0.93 WHIP. Every time he took the mound, there was a very real chance of a no-hitter — until August, when it was revealed he had a tear in his ulnar collateral ligament and would require Tommy John surgery.
Now Harvey is grounded and Warren is getting grounders.
Harvey and Warren have both made the trip from the mounds of Chapel Hill to the stadiums of New York City. They’ve both come quite a long way. And the duo’s journey could just be beginning.