TAMPA, Fla. — Luis Severino will miss the start of the season with a “low-grade” lat strain in his right side and most likely will begin the season on the injured list, yet another starting pitcher setback for the Yankees, Aaron Boone announced Saturday.
Pitching coach Matt Blake said Severino will not throw for five to 10 days-“ish” and then will be reevaluated. Opening Day is Thursday.
Severino went on the injured list last season with what was described as a low-grade lat strain on July 14. He didn’t make another start until Sept. 21, although he believed he could have come back earlier and was miffed when the Yankees put him on the 60-day IL.
“It appears to be lower and a different spot,” Blake said. “We’ll see how it goes over the next couple of days and see how he recovers, but we feel like we got ahead of it.”
Severino, who Boone said was “bummed out a little,” was not available for comment.
“That [stinks] for him,” Boone said, “because I know where he’s at, how he’s looked this spring, how the ball is coming out, the kind of condition he’s in. Then on top of, obviously, the other [injuries] we’ve had. Then you try and take a step back and hopefully believe that it’s something minor that’s a short-term thing.”
Severino was hoping for an injury-free year after being limited to 19 starts in 2022, his highest total since 2018. Last season, Severino went 7-3 with a 3.18 ERA and pitched seven hitless innings against the Rangers in his final regular-season start.
Severino has a 9.00 ERA in spring training but was effective in his last outing, striking out nine in four innings. The next day, he felt something in his right side, and now he’s shut down and the Yankees are scrambling.
Assuming Severino starts the season on the injured list, he will join starters Frankie Montas and Carlos Rodon there. Montas (shoulder surgery) is out until perhaps late in the season. Rodon (forearm strain) just started throwing and is expected back in late April or early May.
The Yankees also have been cautious with Nestor Cortes, who has made two spring training starts after suffering a hamstring strain. Cortes is scheduled to start the spring training finale against the Nationals in Washington on Tuesday.
At the moment, the rotation for the first four games appears to be Gerrit Cole, Clarke Schmidt, Cortes and Domingo German, in that order.
Boone said the Yankees are still working through the identity of the fifth starter. He mentioned righthander Jhony Brito, a 24-year-old Dominican who has yet to make his big-league debut. Blake said Brito will start in Severino’s place on Sunday against Toronto at Steinbrenner Field.
Brito has been in the Yankees’ system since 2016. In 2022, he went a combined 11-4 with a 2.96 ERA in Double-A and Triple-A. He has a 3.52 ERA in three spring training outings (one start).
“I think he’s done a nice job so far,” Blake said. “He throws a lot of strikes. He attacks the zone. He’s got some pitches to get the opposite-side hitters out with a good changeup. I think it’s a good opportunity for him. We knew we’d have to lean on some depth here at some point.”
Blake said righthander Deivi Garcia and lefthander Matt Krook are not built up enough to be considered starters at this point because they can go only two or three innings. Krook has a chance to make the team as a multi-inning reliever.
Double-A righthander Randy Vasquez, 24, threw four shutout innings against the Phillies’ “A’’ lineup on Saturday. Boone said he isn’t a candidate for the vacant fifth starter’s job but “he’s certainly a guy that can get himself into the mix, not necessarily right away, but at any point this season.”
Of Double-A righthander Yoendrys Gomez, 23, who started against the Orioles on Friday night, Boone said: “YoGo, he might have the most upside of them all. I think he’s going to be a starter in the league.”
The six-player trade for Montas, in which the Yankees gave up pitching prospects JP Sears and Ken Waldichuk, left the club short of starting pitching depth. Earlier in spring training, general manager Brian Cashman admitted “we didn’t get a healthy pitcher, and that’s ultimately my responsibility.”
Former Yankees prospect Hayden Wesneski, sent to the Cubs for reliever Scott Effross at last year’s trade deadline, recorded a 2.12 ERA in 17 innings in spring training and will be Chicago’s fifth starter. Effross will miss the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.