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Aaron Boone thrilled to have Luis Severino back to bolster bullpen

New York Yankees pitcher Luis Severino walks to

New York Yankees pitcher Luis Severino walks to the dugout during batting practice before of MLB baseball game the Texas Rangers at Yankee Stadium on Monday, Sept. 20, 2021. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

As they continue to battle for a wild-card berth in the season's final two weeks, the Yankees were given the gift of a former All-Star (with some strings attached) on Monday.

Luis Severino, who had pitched a total of 12 innings the past three seasons — none since the 2019 ALCS — was activated and finally made his return from Tommy John surgery performed in February 2020.Severino is not built up enough to have a starting role, Aaron Boone said, and will be used out of the bullpen down the stretch.

"Sevy could be in a lot of different roles," Boone said. "I would love to get him in here one of these first couple days just to get him going and started, but we’re down to 12 games and obviously, we know how important these games are, so he could find himself in the highest-leverage situation or whatever, and it could evolve into a multi-inning role, could be a big inning [role]. I feel like we got a really good pitcher that we got to add to the mix today and kind of treat it as such."

Severino, 27, does have some experience out of the bullpen, having excelled as a reliever in 2016, his second season. In 11 games, he went 3-0 with a 0.39 ERA in 23 1/3 innings, allowing only eight hits and striking out 25. He said he also plans to lean on the other arms in the Yankees' bullpen for guidance. Either way, he said he is thrilled to be here in whatever role he is given.

"Really excited," Boone said about having him back. "Excited for Sevy, too. It’s been a long road for him. He’s gotten close here over the last couple of months a few times. He had a setback that slowed it down for him a little bit, but just knowing how he’s worked over the last two years to get to this point, I know he’s really excited to be back and obviously we’re excited to add a really good pitcher to the mix."

Boone added that Severino’s repertoire looks "very similar" to the one he had before he got hurt and that the Yankees have been heartened by what they’ve seen from him. Severino made four rehab appearances, allowing four runs, five hits and three walks with 15 strikeouts in 10 2/3 innings.

"He’s worked on his changeup and I think adding a kind of a cutter and a slider hybrid to his repertoire, but he’s very similar," Boone said. "I feel like physically, he’s throwing the ball really well right now, like he’s strong."

Severino said getting out there again "will be like my first [time pitching] here in 2015. It’ll be the same emotions, but after I throw the first pitch, I think everything is going to come back."

Severino made the All-Star team in 2017 and 2018, coming in third in the Cy Young Award voting in the former year. He went 14-6 with a 2.98 ERA in 2017 and 19-8 with a 3.39 ERA in 2018, striking out 450 in 384 2/3 innings and posting a 1.09 WHIP in those two seasons. That led to a four-year, $40 million contract extension in February 2019.

Getting hurt so shortly after an extension was disappointing, he said, adding: "I can’t control that. I come here every day to work and get better and sometimes [things happen] like I don’t want them to."

Because of various injuries, he did not pitch until September in 2019 but showed signs of his old self, compiling a 1.50 ERA and striking out 17 in 12 innings in three games. Five months later, he underwent Tommy John surgery. He was expected back at midseason this year but his rehab was interrupted by a groin strain and shoulder tightness.

Righthander Sal Romano was released to clear a roster spot.

The Yankees began the night 2 1/2 games behind the Red Sox, 1 1/2 games behind the Blue Jays and a half-game ahead of the A’s in the battle for the two wild-card spots. The Red Sox were idle — they will host the Mets on Tuesday and Wednesday — the Blue Jays played the Rays and the A’s faced the Mariners.

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