Luis Severino, Thursday’s starter against Mariners ace James Paxton, was being analyzed by Aaron Boone long before the Yankees’ manager had a dugout view of his ace pitcher.
Boone was in the ESPN booth when Severino debuted in 2015 and has been on his radar ever since.
“I remember pretty clearly when he first came up, burst on the scene,’’ Boone said recently. “Obviously, there was a lot of talk about him. I mean the stuff leaps off the screen.’’
For the second consecutive season, Severino (10-2, 2.09 ERA) is in the running for the Cy Young Award. The clear front-runner is Astros righthander Justin Verlander (9-2, 1.60). Indians righty Corey Kluber, who last season won his second Cy Young, is 10-3 with a 2.24 ERA. Severino finished third last year after going 14-6 with a 2.98 ERA. Chris Sale of the Red Sox was second.
“It makes me feel good being in that conversation,’’ Severino said. “But right now I’m focusing on pitching and trying to be good over here. There’s a lot of good pitchers. Right now, I’m not thinking about the All-Star game, the Cy Young. I’m just thinking every time they give me the ball I need to win.’’
Verlander and Kluber were established stars when Severino entered the majors.
“Obviously, then he has some struggles,’’ Boone said of Severino’s 2016 season. “Gets moved to the bullpen. It’s a question, ‘Is this guy going to survive as a starter? Does he have a third pitch necessary to be an elite starter?’’’
Severino is now in command of a fastball, slider and change.
“Adversity, experience goes a long way when you can persevere,’’ Boone said. “And he in a lot of ways has persevered through a lot for a young man early in his career. And I think all of that has only made him a better pitcher and now we’re seeing in a lot of ways what an elite pitcher in the league looks like. He’s a special one.’’
Boone got his first in-depth look at Severino, 24, during spring training.
“Early on, getting to know him, seeing the tenacity he has to be great at this that was evident to me very early,’’ Boone said. “And I think just the consistency he’s shown, the ability to bounce back. He gets out of whack for a couple of hitters, the rare outing where he hasn’t been great, the ability to just flush it and move on to the next one. The way he is with his teammates and in the dugout in-between his starts is something that I really appreciate about him. I think going into this year I know he had a chance to build off of last year — which was a great season — and hopefully even continue to improve. I think we’re seeing that.’’