TAMPA, Fla.— It’s the kind of phrase that sends shivers up and down the collective back of an organization.
Yankees ace Luis Severino was a last-second scratch from his spring training debut Tuesday because of “right shoulder discomfort.”
The 25-year-old underwent a subsequent MRI that revealed “rotator cuff inflammation,” manager Aaron Boone said after the Yankees’ 5-1 victory over the Braves at Steinbrenner Field.
Boone said later that the righthander would be shut down for at least the next two weeks and that the time frame makes it “highly unlikely” that Severino would be able to start the season opener March 28 against the Orioles.
Although the initial diagnosis could have been far worse, the reality is that Severino basically will have his clock reset. That means perhaps a minimum of a month to get ready for the regular season and that’s if everything goes smoothly.
“It’s no secret how important he is to our team,” Boone said.
With Severino all but certain to start the season on the injured list — as is CC Sabathia, who is being brought along super slow this spring and who also must serve a five-game suspension once he’s active — rumors are sure to fly linking the Yankees to some of the remaining pitchers on the free-agent market such as Dallas Keuchel and Gio Gonzalez.
But while the Yankees bringing someone in from the outside can’t be completely ruled out —especially if the cost is deemed right — those starts are likely to be taken by some combination of Luis Cessa, Jonathan Loaisiga and Domingo German, a trio of young arms who already have had some impressive moments in camp.
“We’ll be covered and feel like the guys that you would consider our sixth and seventh starters, we feel like we’re in good shape there,” Boone said.
The manager said on the first day of camp that Severino would be his Opening Day starter and did not have a name as of Tuesday that will replace him, though it’s safe to assume it will be Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ or James Paxton
Severino started his warmup in the bullpen before Tuesday’s game and it didn’t take long for him to stop.
“The first slider he threw, he felt something and had the wherewithal to shut it down,” Boone said. “He walked off. He didn’t feel anything [throwing fastballs at first] until that point.”
While saying the MRI contained good news — or at least relatively good news considering what the test could have revealed — Boone said that doesn’t mean there isn’t a degree of concern.
“Obviously any time a starting pitcher and a guy like Sevy walks off while he’s warming up to start a game, you always get worried and concerned about that,” Boone said. “But it sounds like the shoulder’s pretty clean; it’s just an inflammation issue. So if that’s the case, then hopefully two weeks is something that will do the trick, then he can start ramping back up with his throwing program. But we’ll re-evaluate at the same time at that two-week point to see if that inflammation is out of there.”
The only time Severino has been on the disabled list in his big-league career was May 14-30, 2016 L with a right triceps strain.
Happ, who appeared in Tuesday’s game and allowed a run and four hits, striking out four in three innings, said Severino was smart to cut his bullpen session short.
“I think he did the right thing by not trying to push it right now,” Happ said.. “Because I think that would have made it worse. In the season later, it could be different, but I think he did the right thing right now. Hopefully that calms down for him.”