TAMPA, Fla. -- As he popped fastballs and sliders into catchers’ gloves through the first weeks of Spring Training workouts, Luis Severino believed that his injury woes were finally behind him. A few changeups and the resulting soreness snapped the Yankees right-hander back into that frustrating 2019 season.
Severino has been shut down indefinitely with soreness in his right forearm, an issue that the hurler said first affected him following his Game 3 start against the Astros in last year’s American League Championship Series. He was evaluated by team physician Dr. Christopher Ahmad on Friday and is scheduled to travel to New York on Monday for a battery of tests at New York-Presbyterian Hospital.
“I just want to play baseball. I just want to pitch,” Severino said. “I've been doing all the things that they want me to do in the offseason to come here healthy. I was pretty good, I was feeling healthy until yesterday. I was watching TV and I was starting to stand up, I was doing something that wasn't right. Something happens, you have to just deal with it.”
Severino said that Friday’s evaluation seemed to rule out an elbow or shoulder issue, speculating that the underlying cause of his soreness could be a nerve or muscle injury. Yankees manager Aaron Boone said that Ahmad plans to coordinate visits to several specialists in what is expected to be a three-day process.
“He'll go through some of the [tests] we already have and go through a number more to try and get to the bottom of what's going on, because it is a bit of an unknown for us right now,” Boone said. “A lot of the MRIs and stuff that he's already had done all kind of suggest he's OK, so we’ve got to continue to explore and try and find out what's giving him that discomfort.”
Severino signed a four-year, $40 million contract extension prior to the 2019 season, but injuries involving his right rotator cuff and a lat muscle in his back sidelined him for most of last year.
He returned for three starts in September before making two more starts in the postseason, taking the loss in ALCS Game 3 against the Astros. Severino would have been the Yankees’ starter if they had forced a Game 7 at Houston’s Minute Maid Park.
“It's definitely frustrating to hear this stuff again,” Severino said. “We're dealing with it. We're seeing what we can do to get me healthy. I think we have the right people here to figure out what is the issue and fix it.”
After the season, Severino traveled to New York twice for examinations related to the forearm issue -- first an MRI in November, then an MRI and a CT scan prior to Spring Training. The images did not reveal any significant concerns, and Severino was cleared to begin his offseason throwing program.
“I was feeling perfect,” Severino said. “I started playing catch, throwing bullpens. I would say two or three days ago, I started throwing the changeup again and it happened again.”
General manager Brian Cashman and Boone mentioned on Thursday that Severino has a “loose body,” or a bone fragment, in his pitching elbow. Severino said that he does not believe that is the underlying cause of his soreness, since he feels no discomfort when throwing fastballs or sliders.
“I think that's not the issue, because it would be an issue after I throw my fastball and after I throw my slider,” Severino said. “Yesterday [would have been] my third bullpen. I've been pretty good, the other ones. I was doing PFP, throwing to bases. So to me, I would say 90 percent of the pitchers have that thing. For me, that's not the issue.”
The Yankees are already down one starting pitcher this spring, with left-hander James Paxton not expected to pitch before May following back surgery. Severino’s injury could open the door for two contenders from the group of Luis Cessa, Deivi Garcia, Jonathan Loaisiga, Jordan Montgomery and Michael King to begin the year in the rotation.
“I hope this is nothing,” Severino said. “I hope this goes away tomorrow and I'll be good to throw bullpens, sim games and I'll start pitching here in Spring Training.”