Low arm-slot reliever Jim Ed Warden, plucked away from the Indians in December’s Rule 5 draft, held right-handers to a .155 batting average last season in Double-A.
Scott Lauber of the News Journal offered the very first look at the 6-7 reliever in bloodstripes yesterday during competitive batting practice.
"(Warden) has a funky side-arm delivery that can be tough, particularly on right-handed hitters. Just ask Jayson Werth. After watching Warden saw off Jason Hill's bat, Werth gingerly stepped into the batter's box. Just then, Warden walked off the mound, having thrown his allotment of pitches. Werth blew a kiss skyward at having been spared from facing Warden."
Beerleaguer: The Indians were reportedly reluctant to part with Warden, but ran out of room on their 40-man roster. The rules of the Rule 5 indicate that Warden must remain with the Phillies (on the 25-man active roster or the DL) for all of 2007 or they must attempt to return him to his original club. However, since a returned Rule 5 pick must first be placed on waivers, a third club could claim him, which is probable, considering teams like Kansas City and Tampa Bay are in desperate need. But of course, they, too, would need to keep him in the majors all season, or offer him back to the Tribe.
The Phillies may be forced to work out a compesatory trade if they like what they see, but elect not to bring him north at this time. It may be worth it; Baseball America actually has him rated as a better prospect than fellow 27-year-old Matt Smith.
Development-wise, the former Division I scholarship athlete turned a corner in 2005, when the Indians switched his arm slot to a low three-quarters angle, according to BA’s annual prospect report. After that, Warden found better consistency with his fastball and his slider became plus. His best pitch is a good, "deep" changeup. Now, it’s a matter of finding consistency in his release point and gaining confidence. A full spring with the big club will certainly help.