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Highly touted Luis Severino gets first start Wednesday, but it's not a make-or-break outing

New York Yankees pitcher Luis Severino delivers a

New York Yankees pitcher Luis Severino delivers a pitch in the third inning of a spring training game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Bright House Field in Clearwater, Fla., on March 3, 2015. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

For all intents and purposes, Luis Severino represents the Yankees' big-time trade deadline acquisition.

This isn't the last-place Red Sox unleashing Henry Owens for his major-league debut with a "what do we have to lose?" approach, which they did Tuesday. With the division-leading Yankees eyeing October and a rotation shrouded in uncertainty -- Michael Pineda on the disabled list, Masahiro Tanaka seeking a return to the ace-like form he displayed much of last year, CC Sabathia's continued struggles -- Severino's debut Wednesday night against the Red Sox will be more than a simple rookie audition.

"If I traded for one of the big- name starters," general manager Brian Cashman said, "they'd feel pressure, too."

After starting the season with Double-A Trenton, Severino overwhelmed hitters at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The 21-year-old righthander, widely regarded as the organization's top pitching prospect, went 7-0 with a 1.91 ERA and 0.93 WHIP in 11 starts.

"We're excited about what he's done," Cashman said. "Excited that he put himself in the position that we hoped he would."

Still, the Yankees have taken measures to mitigate some of the pressure, keeping Severino away from Yankee Stadium and the media a day before his debut, and downplaying the significance of one start.

"I'm not going to make too much of one start," manager Joe Girardi said. "I don't think it's fair. And the thing that I would tell him is, he understands himself better than anyone else. So go be yourself . . . You got to be comfortable."

Comfort is what the Yankees are trying to achieve amid a high-pressure situation. Severino also has assurance that a disappointing outing Wednesday night won't result in a demotion.

"If he doesn't have his best stuff [Wednesday night]," Cashman said, "he'll get the ball five days later. It's as simple as that."

Because Cashman said "there's nothing that's going to hold him back" with regard to his innings workload, Severino will be given every chance to cement his spot in the rotation.

"I think he's at a pretty good spot," Girardi said. "It wouldn't be the worst thing if he went eight innings every time and then we had to be concerned."

Added Cashman: "We prepared for this . . . We all sat down numerous times this winter and then again in spring training and mapped out this scenario. If he performed up to his capabilities, we felt he would pitch for us from August on at some point, and here we are. So now let's see what we've got."


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