It may be too early to say "help is on the way’' out loud, but one can't be blamed for thinking it.
Luis Severino and Dellin Betances each made 25 throws from 60 feet on Monday, the first day of their respective throwing programs. Neither has been able to pitch this season – each has been beset by shoulder and lat muscle injuries – but they could have a real impact on the Yankees’ pitching staff going forward. When healthy, Severino and Betances are two of the club’s most formidable weapons.
“Good that process has started now,” manager Aaron Boone said after their workout and before the Yankees faced the Rays at the Stadium. “Everything went off today without a hiccup. Good to see and off we go now.”
Betances hadn’t thrown a baseball in five weeks since his road back from a right shoulder impingement diagnosed during spring training was halted by the lat issue. Severino said it had been “two or three weeks” for him; he had right rotator cuff inflammation in spring training, was diagnosed with a lat issue in April and was shut down because of slow progress.
“I haven’t played catch in about five weeks. It was a little weird, to be honest with you,” Betances said. “I felt good. That’s why I am taking it a day at a time, not trying to get ahead of myself. But it was a good first day.”
“It feels pretty normal. It’s been two or three weeks without throwing so it was weird, but good,” Severino said. “I feel real confidence it [is healed]. Even the last time, when they sent me back, I didn’t feel nothing. Maybe they were afraid something bigger happened. But I feel good and we will see tomorrow and the day after that.”
Severino is feeling more time pressure than Betances because he not only has to work his way back to throwing off a mound but hopes to build the endurance to get back in the starting rotation. That could take several more weeks than Betances, who is counted on to pitch only an inning as a setup man.
Whether Severino has enough time to build back to a 100-pitch starter – and whether the Yankees will be patient enough to wait on that – is a big unknown. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said last week that time may permit the club to get back only “an abbreviated” Severino who throws 65 to 75 pitches as either a starter or reliever.
Severino said “I feel like I can be” stretched to starter’s endurance in time to rejoin the rotation – and called that his preferred outcome – but added, “I don’t know right now what’s the plan, but if they need me in the bullpen or anything, I just want to help my team.”
When Boone was asked about that, he replied, “We’ll continue to re-evaluate every couple weeks to see where we’re at and see what makes the most sense.”
Once Betances graduates to throwing off a mound, he believes it won’t take long for him to get back in the bullpen.
“The team has been playing exceptionally well, so in a way there is no sense of urgency, no sense of kind of [to] rush,” he said. “These guys are doing a tremendous job, so it gives me the calmness to do what I have to do – to take my time and get ready for the playoffs . . . and hopefully the World Series.”