'Everything is on the table' after Severino shaky again

Yankees righty's ERA jumps to 7.74 after allowing five runs to Astros

August 5th, 2023

NEW YORK -- Confidence has hardly been an issue over the years for Luis Severino, a two-time All-Star who has fearlessly relished showdowns against the game’s best hitters. Yet it’s been more difficult to come by of late.

Severino’s last rocky start prompted the right-hander to describe himself as “the worst pitcher in the world right now,” and that opinion likely hadn’t changed much as he walked off the mound to a chorus of boos on Friday, with the Yankees down early in their 7-3 loss to the Astros at Yankee Stadium.

“I’m getting better confidence in my pitches,” Severino said. “This is a really tough lineup. I’ve got to keep working. I’ve got to keep trying to find ways to get hitters out.”

Yainer Diaz hit a three-run homer in the first inning off Severino, who has struggled mightily in the opening frame this season. The trouble started immediately, as Jose Altuve lashed Severino’s first pitch into the left-field corner for a double.

Severino has allowed 20 first-inning runs (with six home runs) through 13 starts, a 13.85 ERA that ranks highest among all pitchers this season with 10 or more starts.

“It’s like, ‘What am I doing?’” Severino said. “I start looking for different stuff. Is it mechanics? Is it tipping? This is a really good lineup, and if you make a mistake, you’re going to pay for it.”

Severino also surrendered a blast from Yordan Alvarez, permitting five runs over four-plus innings. Severino’s season ERA is 7.74, and the obvious question is how much longer the Yankees can continue to offer him starts as they look to gain ground in the postseason chase, dipping to 3 1/2 games out of the third American League Wild Card.

Since July 1, when Severino was thumped for nine runs by the Cardinals in St. Louis, he has pitched to a 11.22 ERA in six starts. The bullpen could be an option: Severino has pitched in 15 career games as a reliever, 11 of which came in 2016, his second year in the Majors.

“Everything is on the table moving forward,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “We’ll talk through it. The biggest thing is, whatever we do, it’s trying to continue to get him to find that consistency.”

Asked about his willingness to go to the bullpen, Severino said: “As of right now, I’m a starting pitcher. I love having a day for me. But at the end of the day, I’m with the team. Whatever they need me to do.”

It is not as though the Yankees have an abundance of choices; their most likely options to replace Severino in the rotation would be rookies Jhony Brito or Randy Vásquez.

The Yankees' starting pitching depth diminished this week when Domingo Germán left the club to seek treatment for alcohol abuse; if not for that incident, Severino might not have drawn Friday’s start, something Boone seemed to hint at by saying, “This time, we got jammed up a little bit.”

Gerrit Cole is the front-runner for the American League’s Cy Young Award and Clarke Schmidt has been reliable, but Carlos Rodón has been shaky through five starts and Nestor Cortes is being hurried back from the injured list on Saturday, when he is expected to throw about 60 pitches.

Yet their biggest mystery is Severino, who was 7-3 with a 3.18 ERA in 19 starts last season and spoke optimistically this spring about improving those numbers in a contract year.

“I think it’s execution and being in the center of the plate and being in hot zones too much,” Boone said. “I don’t care how good you are. At this level, they’re going to make you pay for that.”

The Yankees mustered two runs in six innings against Hunter Brown, marking the 41st time this season that an opposing starter has gone six or more innings while allowing two runs or fewer. That may have been different if not for a terrific catch by center fielder Jake Meyers in the first inning, robbing Billy McKinney of what could have been a two-run double.

“That was the big hit we needed,” Isiah Kiner-Falefa said. “Kudos to them over there. That was a great play. It definitely changed the game.”

Kiner-Falefa, Jake Bauers and Giancarlo Stanton homered in the loss for the Yankees, with Stanton going deep for the third consecutive game.

“That’s 10 homers in 21 games. Not a lot of guys roll that off,” Boone said. “I feel like, really, the last three or four weeks, he’s been pretty good. With Giancarlo, I always feel like there’s another level he can get to. We’ve seen it.”