NEW YORK -- Seven hundred and seven days passed since Luis Severino's last time on a Major League mound in a game situation, and the Yankees' right-hander took a moment to appreciate that as he delivered his warmup tosses in the eighth inning on Tuesday.
Those 23 months represented an eternity for Severino, whose most recent appearance came in Game 3 of the 2019 American League Championship Series against the Astros. Greeted by a crowd of 23,335 chanting, "Sevy! Sevy!," Severino hurled two scoreless innings in the Yanks' 7-1 victory over the Rangers at Yankee Stadium.
"It was a lot," Severino said. "The fans yelling my name, that was special for me. And just getting on the mound again in a real game, it was fun. It was special. You can think about it, but it's nothing like getting there."
The Yankees presented Severino with their championship belt in the clubhouse after Tuesday's game, which usually indicates that night's most valuable performer. This evening, it served more to recognize the grueling rehabilitation that Severino had to overcome for those six outs.
"It was pretty special having him back," said outfielder Aaron Judge. "He's a big part of this team, a big part of this organization. I'm just happy he's back, happy he's healthy. We're going to need him down the stretch, I know that."
Severino underwent Tommy John surgery in February 2020 and was forecast to return at some point in the summer, but a groin strain and shoulder tightness delayed his progress.
As the Yankees continue to fight for a postseason spot, they are hopeful that the former ace will be a September difference-maker out of the bullpen.
"It's pretty late here in the season, but that's a talented person and a great pitcher," manager Aaron Boone said. "I don't want to put too many expectations on him, but I'm not going to limit what he's capable of here down the stretch and what kind of role he could serve."
Throwing 30 pitches over his two innings, Severino struck out the first batter he faced, Texas catcher Alex Trevino. He covered first base on a Yonny Hernandez groundout, showing no ill effects from his June 12 groin strain, then recovered from a Leody Taveras double to strike out Isiah Kiner-Falefa.
As rain fell in the ninth, Severino pitched around an Adolis García single on two flyouts and a groundout, inducing Willie Calhoun to lift a harmless pop to left fielder Brett Gardner for the final out. Boone has said that he envisions using Severino in similar one-to-three inning assignments for the rest of this year.
"For tonight, we celebrate him and his journey back to a Major League mound," Boone said. "I'm really happy for him and really proud of him."
A two-time All-Star, Severino has hardly pitched since receiving a four-year, $40 million contract extension before the 2019 season. Shoulder soreness limited Severino to five games in '19 -- two in the postseason -- before he was shut down early the following spring.
Severino thanked the numerous athletic trainers and support staff members who helped to guide his rehabs in New York and at the club's complex in Tampa, Fla.
"It was really frustrating for a little bit, but those guys kept me going," Severino said. "Because of them, I'm here right now."