New York Yankees’ starting pitcher Luis Severino pitching in the...

New York Yankees’ starting pitcher Luis Severino pitching in the first inning against the Detroit Tigers during their spring training game at George Steinbrenner Stadium, Monday, Feb. 27, 2023 Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

TAMPA, Fla. — The loudest clock in Luis Severino’s head entering this year probably has little to do with the one ticking down on the scoreboard.

Severino seemed to handle that new rule just fine in the Yankees’ 8-5 Grapefruit League win over the Tigers on Monday night at Steinbrenner Field. Of greater big-picture importance for him is the remaining time between now and his pending free agency.

Picking up Severino’s $15 million option for this season seemed like a no-brainer for the Yankees, but you easily could have said the same thing about general manager Brian Cashman’s decision to give him that four-year, $40 million contract (with a fifth-year option) after the 2018 season, when Severino was coming off 32 starts, a 19-8 record and a 3.39 ERA.

That preemptive move didn’t exactly go the way Cashman imagined. Severino has made a total of 22 starts in during the life of that contract, frequently derailed by injuries that included missing all of the 2020 season because of Tommy John surgery.

When he has been healthy enough to pitch, Severino has been dominant, with a 2.85 ERA, a 0.98 WHIP and a 10.3 K/9 ratio. That’s the Severino the Yankees are envisioning in this walk year, and as much as he wants to capitalize on that financial opportunity, his success will pay off for them as well. He’s hopeful the end result is a World Series and the chance to stay long term in the Bronx.

“Of course, this is the only team, the only family that I know,” Severino said after Monday’s start (two innings, three hits, four runs, one walk, one strikeout). “Of course I want to spend the rest of my life wearing this uniform. Negotiation is part of the game. When you go to free agency, there’s going to be more teams. But I want to finish my career here.”

Keeping him on the mound is crucial to that strategy, which is why the Yankees weren’t letting Severino anywhere near the World Baseball Classic.

“I think when you consider his injury history these last few years, from an injury standpoint, where he is in his career, I think it’s best for him — and certainly best for us,” manager Aaron Boone said before Monday night’s game. “We’re excited about where he’s at right now.”

Severino at least appears to be right on schedule, getting through his 45-pitch allotment Monday without incident. While Monday’s outing looked bumpy in the boxscore, thanks to Eric Haase smacking a 90-mph slider roughly 410 feet to centerfield for a home run, Severino used his entire arsenal and didn’t have any issues with the clock.

His four-seam fastball velocity ranged from 96 to 98 mph, and he mixed in his slider and changeup. While the max velo pleasantly surprised him, he wasn’t too thrilled with the slider. At all.

“It was terrible,” Severino said. “I need to work more on that particular pitch right now. It’s just staying in the middle — a lot. Just need to work more on the shape and getting it more to the corner.”

But that’s a simple fix and easily corrected, unlike the health problems of his past, which have been more difficult to shake. Severino wound up on the 60-day injured list last season because of a strained right lat (he felt it was an excessively long rehab), so he doubled down on his offseason conditioning efforts this past winter. He dropped 15 pounds and thinks this slimmed-down version could give him better stamina over the long season.

When asked the difference for him on the mound, Severino smiled.

“I feel lighter,” he said. “I feel good right now. I wasn’t trying to lose weight, I was just trying to eat healthy and work out a little bit harder.”

Severino believes the new ability to use PitchCom at his belt, enabling a two-way communication with the catcher — an MLB experiment in spring training — could be a huge plus for him if it sticks for the regular season. “Love it — I think it’s the greatest thing,” he said. “It’s faster.”

And a better version of Severino, one that stays in the rotation, should help make this Yankees’ staff more fearsome than any other five in the sport.

“Since I’ve been here, this is the most powerful rotation we’ve had,” he said. “If we can all be healthy for a full year, it’s going to be amazing to watch.”

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