TAMPA, Fla. -- More than a decade since Pedro Martinez tipped his cap and called the Yankees his "daddy," the Hall of Famer might be responsible for helping one of their young hurlers realize his potential.
Luis Severino said that he scored Martinez's telephone number from a mutual acquaintance and reached out to the 18-year Major League veteran and current MLB Network analyst, who agreed to meet in the Dominican Republic for workouts on about five occasions this past offseason.
"Pedro is a really nice guy, [being] available to work with me," Severino said. "That's very cool, very nice. I called him and he said, 'Yes, of course, I can help him.'"
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A year ago, Severino was essentially guaranteed a spot in the Yankees' rotation, but the right-hander went 0-8 with an 8.50 ERA in 11 starts before being dispatched to the Minor Leagues. Pitching coach Larry Rothschild observed that Severino had seemed to lose all confidence in his changeup.
Severino never quite recaptured his touch on that pitch, but he returned to the Majors and found success out of the bullpen by relying on a fastball-slider combination. Severino was 3-0 with a 0.39 ERA in 11 relief appearances, but he said he still sees his future in the rotation, where he will compete this spring to win one of the Yanks' final two spots behind Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and Carsten Sabathia.
"Right now, I want to be a starter," said Severino, who will turn 23 on Feb. 20. "[The bullpen] doesn't come into my mind. I've got to do my best to be a starter."
Severino took the Yankees' advice to ease off lifting weights and instead improve his flexibility, saying that he reported on Monday at 216 pounds, down about 10 from last season.
That program would sound familiar to Martinez, who won 211 Major League games behind a lethal fastball-curveball-changeup combination, and he relayed the importance of that third pitch to Severino.
Severino said that he also listened to Martinez's advice regarding cleaning up his mechanics, looking to create a repeatable delivery and consistent release point. With four bullpen sessions and two live batting practices already under his belt, Severino said the sessions definitely helped.
"I feel the difference," Severino said. "I'm throwing it right now, so I think I have a lot of confidence in it. That's the main goal."