PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — Joe Girardi has raised eyebrows a few times during spring training by saying “there’s no guarantees” regarding Luis Severino and a spot in the Yankees’ rotation.
Still, it would take something unforeseen for the 22-year-old, who excelled in the heat of a pennant race last season after being called up in August, not to have one of the five spots when camp breaks.
In his third outing and second start, Severino again demonstrated the reason why in a 2-1 loss to the Rays at Charlotte Sports Park on Saturday.
Severino, with a fastball that sat at 95-97 and peaked at 98 mph, allowed four hits in 3 2⁄3 scoreless innings, striking out four.
“There’s no guarantees in this game,” Girardi said before the game, “but when we saw what he did last year and you look at his ability, you expect him to be in the rotation.”
Girardi said the way Severino carries himself reminds him of other pitchers who had immediate success young, first mentioning David Price, now with the Red Sox.
“There was a lot of poise [with Price],” Girardi said. “[Clayton] Kershaw, a lot of poise. I was around Greg Maddux as a young player, there was a ton of poise. He knew exactly what he wanted to do. I feel like Sevy’s the same way. He knows exactly what he wants to do.”
Told of the comparisons after his outing, Severino smiled. “Those are great pitchers,” he said.
How does the poise Girardi spoke of manifest itself?
“You don’t see him all over the place. You see him around the strike zone; you don’t see balls getting away,” Girardi said. “He has composure out there. Sometimes you forget he’s 22. You forget how young he is.”
An opposing team talent evaluator said it shows in other ways.
“If things go bad behind him, he doesn’t throw a tantrum or anything like that,” the evaluator said. “He’s under control, he’s focused. I’ve been impressed with him.”
Another opposing team scout wasn’t quite prepared to call Severino a “1.”
But . . .
“He’s in the conversation,” he said. “He could be. He’s legit.”
After being called up in August 2015, Severino went 5-3 with a 2.89 ERA in 11 starts, helping to steady a rotation that at the time seemed to be held together with bailing wire and duct tape.
“I think it said a lot about his composure and who he is that the moment is not too big for him,” Girardi said of what the rookie showed during that stretch.
After Saturday’s outing, one in which he showed an especially crisp slider and changeup, Severino said his 2015 performance showed him there is room for improvement.
“I think last year I had a lot of mistakes, high balls,” he said. “This year [if] I can be down in the zone, I think I can be better.”
Carlos Beltran, 38, who has seen plenty of young pitchers come and go in his career, said Severino carries himself with a rare confidence.
“Young like that? [You] never see a guy that confident,” Beltran said, adding: “Playing in this city, you have to be confident.”
Beltran set the bar high for the righthander. “I see Severino as being one of the best pitchers in the game,” he said. “It’s a young talent. It’s effortless what he does on the mound. Speed is there, mechanics are there, he just needs to get experience. Experience is going to put him in the place where, with the tools that he has and the experience that he’s gaining, he’s going to be good for a long time for this organization.”