TAMPA, Fla. — The first call Luis Severino made on Saturday when he found out he was going to be the Yankees’ Opening Day starter?
“I called my mom right away,” Severino said on Sunday. “It’s something to celebrate.”
Masahiro Tanaka, who started the last three openers, will pitch the second game of the season. CC Sabathia, who started the six before Tanaka, will pitch in game three, and Sonny Gray will go in the finale of the four-game series in Toronto. Jordan Montgomery gets the home opener against Tampa Bay on April 2.
“It’s an honor,” Severino said. “You’ve got four great guys here. Tanaka, CC, Sonny Gray — they’ve been good pitchers for a long time. It’s an honor for me.”
Severino went 14-6 with a 2.98 ERA and 230 strikeouts in 193 1⁄3 innings last season. He made his first All-Star team and finished third in the American League Cy Young Award voting.
Severino, in his second official and next-to-last start of spring training, allowed three runs in five innings in the Yankees’ 8-5 victory over the Marlins at Steinbrenner Field. He threw 70 pitches (50 strikes) and allowed seven hits, walked none and struck out seven.
The Marlins didn’t bring their top players to Tampa. Yes, Derek Jeter’s team does still have a few top players in former Yankee Starlin Castro, catcher J.T. Realmuto and first baseman Justin Bour. That’s pretty much it, though.
It was Severino’s first exhibition start since March 8. His previous outing was a simulated game. He will make one more start, on Friday on the road against Atlanta. Then it’s time to get ready for the opener.
“I need to go to the other guys, like Tanaka,” he said. “He knows things about that. Also CC. Go get some tips from those two guys.”
On Sunday, Severino struck out the first batter, Peter Mooney, on an 89-mph slider. After allowing a pair of singles, he ended the inning by striking out Scott Van Slyke on an 88- mph changeup. Severino has always had the high-90s fastball and the ability to maintain his velocity into the late innings, but it was the development of his secondary pitches that has allowed him to become elite.
Severino struck out two in a perfect second inning and one in a perfect third. He gave up a solo shot to Brian Anderson on a flat 2-and-2 slider to open the fourth.
One out later, Van Slyke doubled on a sinking liner that leftfielder Giancarlo Stanton knocked down with a dive. Severino recovered to strike out Isaac Galloway and got Bryan Holaday to fly out to right to end the inning.
Severino got plenty of offensive support, which the Yankees expect to happen during the season, too.
Greg Bird hit his first home run, a two-run moonshot in the first off former Yankees lefthander Caleb Smith. Neil Walker (2-for-2), making his second start of spring training and first at second base, added a two-run double as the Yankees took a 4-0 first-inning lead.
Gary Sanchez hit a solo shot in the fourth, his fourth homer. Brandon Drury had a two-run single in the sixth and Stanton added a run-scoring single in the seventh as the Yankees gave Severino a preview of their deep and talented lineup.
Severino became the first Yankees starter to get an out in the fifth inning before allowing a pair of singles. A sacrifice fly by Lewis Brinson made it 5-2 before Anderson lashed a two-out RBI double over the glove of Stanton. Severino ended his outing by getting Garrett Cooper to fly out to Aaron Judge in right.
“I thought he was really crisp,” Aaron Boone said. “I thought the stuff was excellent. I thought the command was good. I feel like we’re in a good place with Sevy.”