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Luis Severino will be first to relieve Chris Sale, and he’s fine with that

Yankees ace made All-Star team last year but didn’t pitch. Now, he’s “really excited” for the opportunity.

Luis Severino of the Yankees and the American

Luis Severino of the Yankees and the American League takes the field during Gatorade All-Star Workout Day at Nationals Park on Monday in Washington. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Rob Carr

WASHINGTON — Luis Severino said he would have made the same decision A.J. Hinch did.

“Chris Sale deserves all the honors,” Severino said Monday of Boston lefthander Chris Sale getting the start for the American League a third straight year. “He’s one of the great pitchers in baseball right now. He will start. This year, next year and all the years. I’m just looking forward to pitching.”

Hinch, the Astros manager and also the skipper of the American League All-Stars, said Severino will pitch after Sale, which for the 24-year-old righthander is what’s most significant.

Severino made last year’s All-Star Game but did not pitch in the AL’s 10-inning victory. Had the game gone to an 11th inning, Severino would have appeared but it was not to be. He has carried that disappointment with him since.

“I’m really excited,” Severino said with a mile-wide smile. “I spent some time in the bullpen in 2016, so it’s just like going back in time.”

Severino, of course, won’t be back in a bullpen role any time soon.

He finished third in Cy Young voting last season — behind Cleveland’s Corey Kluber and Sale — and is again a contender for the award.

Severino is 14-2 with a 2.31 ERA this season. His chances at starting likely took a blow based on his last two starts before the break when he allowed a combined seven runs in 10 innings.

For those looking for conspiracies — the Astros, for instance beating the Yankees in last year’s ALCS and the Red Sox being managed by Alex Cora, Hinch’s former bench coach — there are none. Not based on an objective reading of the facts, anyway.

Sale, while 10-4, has a lower ERA than Severino (2.23) and has struck out 188 over 129 innings (Severino has struck out 144 over 128 1⁄3 innings). Opponents are hitting .209 against Severino compared to .184 vs. Sale.

“I literally watched all the way until, I don’t know, the end of their last starts,” said Hinch, who talked to Cora, Kevin Cash, the manager of the Rays’ Blake Snell — another strong contender to start — and Aaron Boone before making his decision.

Hinch said he spoke with the three pitchers as well.

“What I’ve been really pleased with is how all of them were very humble in this,” Hinch said. “None of them made any sort of demands and none of them stood up and said, ‘I only want to start.’ There’s been a tremendous amount of respect from Chris and the other pitchers and all the way around.”

Before the season, Severino said one of his goals was to build on last year’s success so that he could be consistently mentioned in the same breath as Kluber, Sale and Justin Verlander when people talk about the top arms in the AL.

On Monday, Kluber said, “before spring training he already was” in that conversation, regarding Severino.

“He’s a great pitcher,” said Kluber, who is 12-5 with a 2.76 ERA. “Great stuff. And only continuing to get better. He’s got great power stuff but there’s a lot of guys that have great power stuff. To have that stuff and to be able to locate it and use it when you need to, that’s what separates guys and puts them at a level like him.”

AL manager A.J. Hinch looked at the numbers and gave Chris Sale the All-Star Game start over Luis Severino.

SEVERINOSALE

14-2W-L10-4

2.31ERA2.23

1.005WHIP0.899

128 1⁄3 INNINGS129

144STRIKEOUTS 188

.209BA AGAINST .184

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