Severino exits start vs. Reds with shoulder tightness

July 14th, 2022

NEW YORK -- By the Yankees’ standards, the celebration for their Major League-leading 11th walk-off win of the season seemed almost muted. Sure, there was the requisite rush toward home plate for high-fives and back-slapping, and someone made it rain bubble gum and sunflower seeds. But there is also fresh concern about a Luis Severino injury and what it could mean.

Bothered by tightness in his right shoulder, Severino surrendered three consecutive home runs in the second inning, then cut his warmup tosses short before the next frame. The Yankees overcame his early exit, as Giancarlo Stanton slugged a game-tying homer and DJ LeMahieu celebrated his 34th birthday by scoring the winning run on a wild pitch in a 7-6, 10-inning victory over the Reds on Wednesday.

“I think we all knew he was struggling a little bit in the second inning,” LeMahieu said. “He was trying to push through it and said he couldn’t go anymore, couldn’t let it loose. Our starters have been doing such a great job rolling out there every five days. If he goes down, hopefully he doesn’t miss too many starts, if any.”

Severino said that he felt the tightness in his shoulder early in the day and was never quite able to relieve it; the Yankees noticed a dip in the right-hander’s velocity readings early on Wednesday, seemingly stalled in the low 90s as he attempted to protect his body.

Kyle Farmer, Mike Moustakas and Stuart Fairchild all homered off Severino in the second inning, boosting Cincinnati to an early four-run lead and drawing manager Aaron Boone to the mound with head athletic trainer Tim Lentych in tow.

Severino told Boone that “everything was good” and resolved to throw with full force, retiring the next three batters. Those would be the last of the 43 official pitches that Severino tossed on Wednesday, as he found that the tightness was still there when he tried to return for the third inning.

“My first pitch was like 90, 91 [mph]. That’s not me,” Severino said. “After that second inning, when I was warming up, it was getting worse. I told myself, ‘Before something even bigger happens, stop it right here.’ Hopefully it’s not something that will take that much time.”

Starting pitching was an unexpected strength of this Yankees club in the season’s first months, a significant reason why they have matched a franchise record with 62 wins before the All-Star break and still pace the American League East by two touchdowns. Still, general manager Brian Cashman would be wise to seek depth as the Aug. 2 Trade Deadline approaches.

Jameson Taillon has struggled mightily in his last four starts, permitting 20 runs over 21 innings, Nestor Cortes’ innings will require management down the stretch and -- after missing most of the previous three seasons due to injury -- Severino’s workload was a concern even before he returned to the dugout in the third inning.

“That’s getting ahead of ourselves,” Boone said. “Let’s see what we’ve got. I certainly don’t like seeing him come out. You hope for the best tomorrow, but at least on [first] exam, there were no alarming things.”

In 16 starts this season, Severino has posted a 3.45 ERA across 86 innings, permitting 67 hits and 14 homers with 95 strikeouts. It has marked his healthiest and most extensive big league duty since 2018, losing most of the previous three seasons to injuries.

Severino was sidelined in March 2019 by rotator cuff inflammation and a lat strain, then he underwent Tommy John surgery in February '20. He sustained a groin strain while pitching in the Minors in June '21, then he was set back again in August '21 by shoulder tightness.

“In his mind, with his injury history, I think he gets a little cautious,” Boone said.

With a visit to the MRI tube on deck for Thursday, Severino said that he was pleased to see his teammates pick him up. Isiah Kiner-Falefa’s three-run double highlighted a five-run third inning for the Yankees, though left-hander JP Sears gave back the lead in a two-run fifth inning, permitting Joey Votto’s run-scoring ground rule double and a Tyler Stephenson sacrifice fly.

Otherwise, Sears -- who was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre after the game -- pitched well over 3 2/3 innings. Stanton slugged his 23rd home run of the season in the eighth inning, a 345-foot opposite-field drive off Ian Gibaut that just cleared the short porch in right field.

Clay Holmes pitched out of trouble in a less-than-automatic ninth inning, navigating around a walk and infield hit, and Michael King induced an inning-ending double play in the 10th. With Stanton batting, LeMahieu dashed home when Alexis Díaz's second wild pitch of the inning skittered toward the backstop, helping the Yankees improve to 6-2 in extra-inning games this season.

“They kind of gave us one,” LeMahieu said.