LAKELAND, Fla. -- One year after joining elite company in the American League Cy Young Award race, Luis Severino has been tabbed to start the Yankees' season opener on March 29 against the Blue Jays, manager Aaron Boone announced on Saturday.
"We feel like it's his time for it," Boone said. "With what he was able to do last year, we feel like he's in a really good place now. We just felt like now is the time for him to take on that role and we think he's ready for it. I'm looking forward to seeing him grow in his role as one of the aces of this staff."
Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka will start the second game of the season, to be followed by left-hander Carsten Sabathia and right-hander Sonny Gray at Rogers Centre. Left-hander Jordan Montgomery will start the Yankees' April 2 home opener against the Rays.
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"I thought it was well deserved [for Severino]," Tanaka said through an interpreter. "Everybody knows how he pitched last season. He is the guy that should start the very first game of the season. Also, it was good to know exactly when I'm pitching when the season starts so that I can schedule myself accordingly."
Severino, 24, finished third in the AL Cy Young Award race behind Corey Kluber of the Indians and Chris Sale of the Red Sox. The right-hander was 14-6 with a 2.98 ERA in 31 regular-season starts, ringing up 230 strikeouts in 193 1/3 innings.
Severino will make his second spring start on Sunday against the Marlins, having fired 3 1/3 frames in Grapefruit League play.
"I think he's in a really good place," Boone said. "I think he's sharp. I think the confidence is in a really good place where he knows he can be really special, but there's also the workmanlike hunger and desire to be great. We feel like the time is now to put him in that role."
Severino also made four starts in the 2017 postseason, logging a 5.63 ERA in 16 innings. Boone said that Severino's ability to bounce back from an abbreviated one-out effort in the AL Wild Card Game against the Twins convinced the Yankees that he is ready for the Opening Day stage.
"He followed up and bounced back from that game really well," Boone said. "This is another step, I feel like, on his career path. I think the way he responded to that game contributed to us saying, 'Now is the time.' He's good to go."
Tanaka started the Yankees' previous three season openers. Boone said that he spoke to each of the five pitchers, and that Tanaka understood the decision.
"I'm going to always feel good about giving the ball to Masa," Boone said. "Postseason, big game, whatever it is."
Though Sabathia had an injury scare in Toronto last August, Boone said that the Yankees are not concerned about having Sabathia pitch on his balky right knee at an artificial turf facility. Sabathia has also said that pitching on the Rogers Centre mound should not be an issue.
"We evaluated it on our own," Boone said. "We've also spoken with CC about it. We just don't think it's enough of a factor."