Severino's return could be huge boon for Yanks

Right-hander makes strong five-inning start in first MLB action since July 13

September 22nd, 2022

NEW YORK -- All eyes were fixed upon Aaron Judge as the slugger stood at Roger Maris’ doorstep Wednesday evening, each at-bat an opportunity to etch fresh history. When a ball off his bat found grass instead of seats, the crowd groaned, disappointed even by a pair of doubles. If a pitch sailed out of the strike zone, they booed.

Judge was kept in the park in his five plate appearances, scoring two runs in the Yankees' 14-2 rout of the Pirates at Yankee Stadium that featured Oswaldo Cabrera’s grand slam and Gleyber Torres’ two homers in the eighth inning. Yet, for the club’s postseason purposes, the most encouraging development may have come with Luis Severino’s successful return to the mound.

“They asked me if I was ready to face big league hitters,” Severino said. “You don’t forget that thing so quickly, so I feel very good. My confidence is like it has always been. I’m ready to get to the next step.”

Making his first start since July 13, Severino was in command throughout his five-inning performance, limiting Pittsburgh to one run on two hits. Saying that he was trying to conserve pitches and looking for quick innings, Severino walked one and struck out six, tossing 47 of 64 pitches for strikes.

 “I thought he was great,” manager Aaron Boone said. “I thought it was the best fastball he’s had maybe all year, the consistency of it. I thought the life was there. The lane where he was, he was under control with it. … I was hoping to get three or four innings out of him. For him to get through the fifth there, that was big. I thought he was really sharp.”

Severino had been upset when the Yankees transferred him to the 60-day injured list on Aug. 1, believing that he would be able to return much sooner from a low-grade right lat strain. In fact, Severino initially refused to listen to an explanation from general manager Brian Cashman and Boone, who tried to show Severino a calendar with their projected timeline.

Instead, Severino bounced through three levels of the farm system this month, pitching to a 3.48 ERA at Single-A Tampa, Double-A Somerset and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. By his most recent outing at Triple-A last Thursday, both Severino and the Yankees believed he was ready to face big league competition, but an eight-day span with three off-days kept him on the rehab assignment.

But Severino believes that he may be back at the perfect time, ready to assist a rotation that will be without Trade Deadline acquisition Frankie Montas for an indeterminate period.

Montas landed on the injured list on Tuesday (retroactive to Saturday) with inflammation in his right shoulder. Though it is said to be a more mild case than what sidelined Montas for 2 1/2 weeks in July with the A’s, he may not pitch again until the postseason after recording a 6.35 ERA in eight starts as a Yankee.  

Re-enter Severino, who had pitched to a solid 3.45 ERA through 16 starts before landing on the IL in July, including some dominant performances to highlight his return to the rotation. The best came on June 4 vs. Detroit, when Severino produced seven scoreless innings with only one hit to 10 strikeouts.

“It’s big-time, especially with Frankie going down,” Judge said. “Frankie was a big part of our rotation, but now, getting Sevy back, that’s another big part of our rotation. I liked what I saw tonight, pumping [fastballs] up there 97-98 [mph], working all his offspeed pitches and attacking. I felt like every time I looked up there, it was 0-1, 0-2.”

Including Wednesday’s start, Severino has allowed one run or fewer in eight starts this year.

“In the first inning, [there were] a lot of pitches,” Severino said. “After that, we made good pitches. That ground-ball double play helped me a lot to throw more innings. I was going to get mad if I threw less than five innings today.”

That’s the Severino the Yankees are hoping to slot behind right-hander Gerrit Cole in a postseason series, with left-hander Nestor Cortes, righty Jameson Taillon and righty Domingo Germán also vying for assignments, given the uncertainty of Montas’ situation.

At this stage, building stamina is less of a concern for Severino than dominating a few turns through the lineup; as he mentioned, hooks tend to come early in the playoffs, with only one of his postseason outings having stretched more than 14 outs -- his seven-inning winning effort in Game 4 of the 2017 AL Division Series vs. Cleveland.

“He’s a bulldog on the mound,” Judge said. “He’s definitely going to be a big piece down the stretch.”