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As Yankees’ Luis Severino struggles with fastball, Joe Girardi wants to see improvement

New York Yankees pitcher Luis Severino pitching during

New York Yankees pitcher Luis Severino pitching during batting practice in spring training on Friday, Feb. 17, 2017, at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, FL. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

TAMPA, Fla. — It would be overly dramatic to say Joe Girardi put Luis Severino on notice with his postgame comments Wednesday.

But the manager also didn’t hide a degree of frustration he’s feeling regarding the talented yet inconsistent righthander.

Severino, while showing glimpses this spring of the pitcher who impressed just about everyone in 2015, has continued struggling with command of his fastball.

It happened again Wednesday in his third start of the spring, this time against the Team Canada, in a 10-4 victory at Steinbrenner Field.

Girardi said Severino’s fastball command — the pitcher’s primary problem last season regardless of the constant talk about his changeup — has been OK in his side sessions but that’s where it stops.

“The bullpens have been better than the games,” Girardi said. “So we need to get that to transfer over.”

Wednesday, when Severino allowed two runs and four hits, including a two-run homer to Tyler O’Neill, Girardi bluntly described the 23-year-old’s fastball command over his two innings.

“It was not good,” Girardi said. “We’ve said all along the changeup’s important, but also the fastball command is really, really important. Being down in the zone is important for him and when he got up today he got hurt.”

Said catcher Gary Sanchez, through his translator: “I thought his changeup was really good today. He battled for a couple innings. Fastball location was a little off, not as good as we want it.

Severino, who threw 27 pitches in the first inning, walked a batter but did strike out four. Two of those came on fastballs, and one each came on a slider and changeup.

“My changeup right now is good, but I just need to work with Larry [Rothschild] more [on fastball command],” Severino said of the Yankees pitching coach. “I was missing. I have to work more on that, my fastball command”

Opposing team scouts had Severino’s fastball sitting at 95-98 mph in the 27-pitch first inning and 93-96 in the second inning. His slider came in at 85-88 and his changeup 86-88.

“The stuff is good,” an AL scout said. “It’s about command. It’s been better than last year but not where it should be or needs to be. But, for me, with that arm, he’s still in the rotation.”

That opinion is shared by plenty in the organization, but Girardi said the two open rotation spots will have be earned.

“There are no gifts,” Girardi said, responding specifically to a question about Severino’s favored status.

In the last 1 ½ weeks each of the five competing for two jobs — Bryan Mitchell, Adam Warren, Luis Cessa, Chad Green and Severino — have had at least one hiccup.

If Warren doesn’t make the rotation, he’s assured of a bullpen spot. The same is not true of the others.

“We wouldn’t put all three of them in the bullpen,” Girardi said. “They all have options, they all could go down [to stay stretched out].

Handicapping the competition, Girardi said, “I think all the guys are fairly close.”

“It’s still early,” he added. “Still a long ways to go but you hope someone emerges.”


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