TAMPA, Fla. – Luis Severino would prefer it not to come to this.
But it is.
The Yankees righthander, unless a last-minute agreement or long-term contract extension is suddenly worked out, is headed for arbitration, with the hearing scheduled to take place Friday in St. Petersburg. Severino has asked for $5.25 million for this season, while the Yankees’ offered $4.4 million.
“I think any player doesn’t want to be in that situation,” Severino said Wednesday as pitchers and catchers reported to camp.
Severino will be the first Yankee to go through the process since Dellin Betances in 2017, a hearing that resulted in bitter feelings on both sides as well as wounds – caused primarily by some comments made by team president Randy Levine – that have never completely healed from the reliever’s standpoint.
Severino said he hasn’t recently spoken to Betances, with whom he is close, about the process, but knows full well the ugliness that can occur both during the hearing and afterward.
“I haven’t talked to him,” said Severino, who turns 25 next Wednesday. “[But] I hear a lot about what’s going on there.”
Severino, who later in the day was tabbed by manager Aaron Boone as his Opening Day starter, laughed.
“It’s not fun,” he added.
Few pitchers had more fun than Severino, or were better, in last season’s first half when he was 13-2 with a 1.98 ERA. But he nose-dived much of the way from there, going 6-6 with a 5.67 ERA over his last 14 starts to finish 19-8 with a 3.39 ERA. He had 220 strikeouts in 191 1/3 innings. A couple of days ago Severino speculated he might have tired down the stretch, and the pitcher said Wednesday among the ways he altered his offseason was cutting down on fried foods – fried chicken and fried plantains were the toughest to give up – and "eating more vegetables." He reported to camp 12-15 pounds less, he estimated, than he weighed at season’s end.
“It’s not easy, it’s tough,” Severino smiled. “I really hate eating vegetables and stuff.”