PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — Luis Severino’s second inning showed why the Yankees at times have been frustrated with him.
The righthander’s third inning showed why they’re so committed to the concept of him being a starter, despite some success in the bullpen.
“I think you feel that if it’s a young man that has that velocity and can locate it and use his other pitches,” Joe Girardi said before the game, “he could be a really good starter.”
The 23-year-old Severino, whose fastball typically registers in the 96-98 mph range but whose command of the pitch has been a concern dating back to last spring, allowed one run and two hits over three innings Tuesday in a 10-6 loss to the Rays at Charlotte Sports Park.
Severino allowed a wind-aided solo homer in the second inning, but also a double and a walk.
Then in the third, facing Logan Morrison, Evan Longoria and Brad Miller — three of the Rays best hitters — Severino struck out the side, all on sliders.
“It shows you his ability,” Girardi said. “When he’s right and he makes pitches and he uses all his pitches and has fastball command, he can be really good.”
Overall of Severino’s outing, Girardi said: “I thought he was better today. I thought his fastball was down, he used his other pitches pretty well.”
Severino said his problem commanding the fastball, an issue each of his first two starts, comes down to him “rushing” to the plate and “trying to throw as hard as I can.” It is something he and pitching coach Larry Rothschild spent the last week working on after Severino allowed two runs and four hits in his previous start, last Wednesday.
“I was more calm this time,” said Severino, who also felt good with his changeup, a work in progress. “A couple starts ago my fastball command was really, really bad. This outing I was throwing the ball low, my changeup was good, my slider was right there.”
Catcher Gary Sanchez said “definitely” Severino’s pace and command was better.
“I think that’s the key for him, to slow down and to breathe and take it easy,” Sanchez said through his translator. “Because the thing with Severino is even when does that, he will throw 98 and it’s not like he’s slowing down and the velocity is going to go down. It’s not. He slows down and the command is better.”
Severino had an inconsistent spring in 2016 and then was consistently bad once the regular season began, losing his starting rotation spot by mid-May after going 0-6 with a 7.46 ERA his first seven starts, banished to Triple-A.
Though he salvaged his season late with some superb work out of the bullpen (0.39 ERA in 11 appearances), it’s not a guarantee he ends up in the bullpen again if he doesn’t win one of the two open rotation spots. It’s very possible he’d be sent to Triple-A to keep working and stay stretched out as a starter.
A truism remains: it is far easier in this sport to find a quality reliever than a quality starter.
“He’s so young that it’s way too early to say he’s this or that, or he’s not going to be this or he’s not going to be that,” Girardi said. “You have to be patient. He should just be getting out of college, really, is the bottom line. We still envision him as a starter. There’s nothing telling us that he’s not.”