Severino on track after brief scare

March 31st, 2022

TAMPA, Fla. --  popped the catcher’s glove with fastballs, sliders and changeups in the George M. Steinbrenner Field bullpen on Wednesday afternoon, one day after a scheduled start was scratched by what the Yankees are describing as general arm soreness.

The right-hander -- who would have started Wednesday’s exhibition against the Blue Jays, a nod that went instead to left-hander Manny Bañuelos -- said that he came out of the 31-pitch session encouraged. Severino’s next outing is scheduled for Saturday against the Braves, representing his final spring tuneup.

“Everything was OK; it was good to keep moving forward,” Severino said.

Severino reported the soreness to the team’s athletic trainers last Saturday, one day after a start against the Phillies in Clearwater, Fla., saying that he woke up “real tight, more than normal,” and that he “couldn’t do much.” Severino acknowledged that he was concerned.

“You think of everything that has happened -- Tommy John [surgery], groin [injury], all that stuff,” Severino said. “The next day I was worried, but it got better the next day and the day after that. I was feeling good about my arm the next couple of days.”

Added manager Aaron Boone: “You always come out after a workload, feeling a little bit heavy. I think it lingered around with him a little bit. We just wanted to give him a couple of extra days.”

Any hint of a Severino injury tends to set off alarms, considering that the two-time All-Star has been limited to 27 2/3 innings (including postseason) since 2019. Severino said that he did not undergo any tests, such as an MRI exam, and he believes the soreness is related to his lengthy layoff.

“I haven’t done this in a while,” Severino said. “I haven’t built to be a starter. I think my arm is getting used to more work. Right now, I feel pretty good.”

Back to the future
It has been a decade since Bañuelos was one of the celebrated pitching prospects in Yankees camp, lumped together with Dellin Betances and Andrew Brackman as what the club hoped would be the "Killer B's."

That never quite materialized; Bañuelos never pitched in New York, making his Major League debut in 2015 as a member of the Atlanta Braves. Now 31, Bañuelos is making the most of another chance to wear the pinstripes, firing three scoreless innings on Wednesday to remain in consideration for the Opening Day roster.

“Honestly, it’s very special to be back,” said Bañuelos, who has not allowed a run through six spring innings. “I’m enjoying every day I come to the ballpark. I have a lot of memories. I’m very grateful to the Yankees for giving me the opportunity to come back. I want to take advantage; I want to show I still have something.”

In camp as a non-roster invitee, Bañuelos said that he is more experienced and mature than the youngster who once vied for attention alongside CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova. Boone said that Bañuelos has shown command and presence, pushing his name into consideration for a bullpen spot.

“His stuff has been good all spring, but [Wednesday] was probably as good as it’s been,” Boone said. “His fastball looked like it was really playing and it looked like he was mixing in his secondary stuff, so it was another encouraging outing for him.”

Prospects honored
The Yankees have announced that shortstop Anthony Volpe and right-hander Hayden Wesneski were named winners of the 2021 Kevin Lawn Awards as the club’s Minor League ‘Position Player of the Year’ and ‘Pitcher of the Year,’ respectively.

Volpe, 20, batted .294/.423/.604 in 109 combined games with Single-A Tampa and High-A Hudson Valley in 2021. He was named a Organization All-Star last season after leading the Minors in runs scored (113) and ranking third in extra-base hits (68).

Volpe also led all Yankees Minor Leaguers in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS (1.027), doubles (35) and walks (78), tied for first in total bases (249), ranked second in RBIs (86), third in home runs (27), and fourth in batting average and stolen bases (33). Volpe is rated as the Yankees’ top prospect and baseball’s No. 15 prospect by MLB Pipeline.

Wesneski, 24, combined to go 11-6 with two complete games and a 3.25 ERA in 25 games (24 starts) in 2021 with Hudson Valley, Double-A Somerset and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Last season, Wesneski was named a Organization All-Star after leading all Yankees Minor Leaguers in wins, innings pitched (130 1/3) and starts while ranking second in strikeouts (151), fourth in WHIP (1.12) and fifth in ERA. Wesneski is rated as the Yanks’ No. 15 prospect by MLB Pipeline.

The annual awards are dedicated to Kevin O’Brien Lawn -- the son of longtime Yankees vice president and chief of operations Jack Lawn -- who died in 1999.

Suit ‘em up
Steinbrenner Field’s diamond usually belongs to pitchers, catchers, infielders and outfielders. It hosted a group with different job descriptions on Wednesday, as players and coaches cheered loudly for staff with titles like "director of quantitative analysis," "director of baseball operations" and "media relations manager."

Nick Swisher roamed the field with a megaphone as, for one day, some of the Yankees’ behind-the-scenes personnel were invited to put on the pinstripes. The staff members took part in a battery of hitting and fielding drills, such as a batting-practice competition and catching popups behind home plate.

No new contenders for the 28-man roster emerged, but there were plenty of laughs in the camaraderie-building exercise.

“It was awesome,” Boone said. “I’ve had a lot of players and coaches talk about, that’s one of the best things we’ve done. We usually do a team-building thing every spring; this year has been a little different with the quick turnaround, so this is something that has been coming together the last week or two. I thought it was great. I thought everybody out there over-delivered, took it really serious.”

Boone said that left-hander Zack Britton was one of the driving forces behind the competition, which some referred to as "Average Joe’s" -- a reference to the rag-tag underdog team in the 2004 comedy Dodgeball.

“You’ve got the players and baseball ops, and sometimes it doesn’t feel like everyone’s pulling on the same rope, even though you are,” Britton said. “To get everyone out there, now you’ve got a face to the name. Some of those guys, we’ve never really met before they got out there. … I think it should happen more often, where there’s interaction with your baseball ops department and your players.”