TAMPA, Fla. – Luis Severino said his injured shoulder feels good, but general manager Brian Cashman said on Friday that he doesn’t expect the Yankees’ ace to pitch until “May, at the earliest.”
Cashman also said he doesn’t know if injured centerfielder Aaron Hicks will be ready for the March 28 season opener. Hicks has been out since March 1 with a lower-back injury.
The Yankees already knew Severino was going to start the season on the injured list after he was scratched from his first spring training start on March 5 with rotator cuff inflammation. Early reports suggested Severino could return in late April or early May.
Cashman ruled out April and suggested that Severino’s season debut could take longer than the original estimate.
"He’s going to have to start from scratch and have his spring training,” Cashman said. “So again, at the very earliest, a May date we’re talking about. I can’t tell you past that. And if it needs to be more, we’ve got to make sure we don’t have a problem with it. So I don’t know.”
Severino had a cortisone shot and will begin a throwing program next week. He said he feels “good right now. I don’t feel nothing right now. So I think I’m getting ready.”
Severino, who signed a four-year, $40 million contract extension in February, said he doesn’t have a target date in mind for his first start.
"Not yet,” he said. “I just want to be healthy. I want to deal with the issue and be 100 percent healthy to help my team.”
CC Sabathia also will open the season on the injured list as he comes back from an offseason heart procedure that slowed his rehab from knee surgery. Cashman said Sabathia, who has to serve a five-game suspension when healthy for his part in a September brawl with the Rays, will be ready “at some point in April . . . if everything goes right.”
Cashman said he’s still open to the idea of adding a free-agent starting pitcher, but only at the Yankees’ price. Lefthanders Dallas Keuchel and Gio Gonzalez remain unsigned.
For now, the final two spots in the rotation will go to Luis Cessa (who has a 0.69 spring training ERA), Jonathan Loaisiga (10.00 ERA) or Domingo German (who has a 1.54 ERA after striking out six in four shutout innings in a 14-1 victory over the Red Sox on Friday). Cashman said he's also open to the idea of using an opener at times.
As for Hicks, a back injury that he and the team originally thought would keep him out a day or two has lingered so long that Hicks might not be ready by March 28.
"He may or may not be ready for Opening Day,” Cashman said. “I think he’ll be healthy prior to Opening Day. It’s just will he have enough at-bats, defensive reps [and] conditioning in advance . . . to let us plug and play with him from day one.”
Hicks, who had a cortisone shot on Monday but has not started baseball activities, said, “Right now it feels great.”
Asked if he would be OK with starting the season on the injured list, Hicks said: “Opening Day is what you get ready for in the offseason. It’s the first game of the season and it’s exciting. You want to feel that rush of the first game, of Opening Day. You want to be introduced with your team. It would definitely be tough because I definitely want to be introduced with my teammates.”
Cashman said Hicks’ absence could lead to first-base candidates Luke Voit and Greg Bird both making the team because Giancarlo Stanton would be needed to play the outfield, thus opening up the DH spot. If all of their outfielders are healthy, the Yankees will send the loser of the Voit-Bird battle to Triple-A.
Cashman also said he’s not concerned about the spring training offensive struggles of either Troy Tulowitzki or Gary Sanchez.
Cashman said of Tulowitzki: “He is our shortstop.”