Luis Severino’s return grows closer still, though just how close is not yet clear.
The righthander, who in mid-June was weeks away from returning to the Yankees rotation before getting sidetracked by a groin injury, came through his first rehab start since then on Tuesday night.
Pitching for Double-A Somerset, Severino allowed two runs, two hits and a walk over 2 1/3 innings. Severino, whose outing was shortened somewhat as a result of him needing to throw 30 pitches in the first inning, did strike out four.
Aaron Boone said Severino will pitch in another rehab outing Sunday, a third one five days after that, "and then we’ll see" in terms of the 27-year-old making his 2021 Yankees’ debut.
"I watched Sevy this afternoon (on video)," Boone said. "I think it's an encouraging step for Sevy. His stuff got a little better as the outing went along I thought. I haven't seen him yet today to see how he’s doing, but a positive step for him."
Severino, who underwent Tommy John surgery in February 2020, hasn’t pitched in a big-league game since Oct. 15, 2019, which was Game 3 of the ALCS vs. Houston. Severino, who made just three regular-season appearances in 2019, hasn’t pitched a full season since 2018.
"Don’t want to feel like we’re rushing him back for a guy that hasn’t pitched in big-league games for close to 20-plus months," Boone said. "Don’t want to take him out of his rehab assignment, essentially his spring training, early."
In the clear?
Indications continue to be the Yankees' most recent COVID-19 outbreak – if it can be called that this time around – has been limited to Gerrit Cole and Jordan Montgomery.
"We don’t," Boone said, asked if there were any additional positives to announce.
Though the positive tests for Cole and Montgomery are anything but insignificant, this COVID issue, for now, doesn’t compare to May when the Yankees had nine members of their traveling party, including one player, test positive or last month when six players were placed on the COVID IL.
Nestor Cortes Jr. is slated to start Thursday night’s series opener against the Mariners and Andrew Heaney, shelled in his Yankees’ debut Monday night, will start Saturday and rookie Luis Gil, who took Cole’s turn Tuesday and threw six scoreless innings, will go Sunday.
Friday, which would have been Montgomery’s day to pitch, is still up in the air, with Boone leaving open the possibility of the Yankees choosing to go with a bullpen game.
Hicks in the house
Aaron Hicks, lost for the season in mid-May after undergoing surgery for a torn tendon sheath in his left wrist, has been with the Yankees all week. Before Wednesday night’s game, making his first comments since the surgery, Hicks told reporters he anticipated having a fairly normal offseason and being ready to go for spring training.
Former Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira sustained a similar injury during the World Baseball Classic in 2013 and eventually had season-ending surgery, with the affected wrist not feeling completely healed until 2015.