How did Luis Severino look Wednesday night?
“Like the guy who should be pitching Game 1 (of a playoff series) for them,” one National League scout said on Thursday.
A bit of hyperbole, perhaps, but Severino showed the Yankees just about everything they wanted to see in making his first start since July 13 after being placed on the injured list July 14 with a right lat strain.
The 28-year-old, whom the Yankees hope can be a legitimate postseason rotation option, allowed one run and two hits over five innings in which he walked one and struck out six in a 14-2 victory over the Pirates. Severino, on a pitch count in the range of 65 (he ended up throwing 64), improved to 6-3 with a 3.36 ERA.
“I thought he was great,” Aaron Boone said. “I thought it was the best fastball he’s had maybe all year, the consistency of it. I thought the life was there. The lane where he was, he was under control with it.”
The NL scout, who has been assigned to the Yankees all season, praised not only Severino’s fastball, which sat in the 96-mph range, but his slider as well.
“Velocity was good all night. Slider was excellent,” the scout said. “Changeup was just OK but usable against a bad team. Moved the ball around well. I’d probably lean toward the slider being the most positive part of the night [from a Yankees’ perspective].”
Though Boone wasn’t surprised Severino looked good in his return, the righthander did exceed expectations in one respect, given the pitch count.
“I was hoping to get three or four innings out of him,” Boone said. “For him to get through the fifth there, that was big. I thought he was really sharp.”
Severino, who fought the Yankees tooth and nail when he was put on the 60-day IL on Aug. 1 – and hasn’t hid his displeasure at the organization doing it – did not sound surprised at his outing.
“They asked me if I was ready to face big league hitters,” Severino said. “You don’t forget that thing so quickly, so I feel very good. My confidence is like it has always been. I’m ready to get to the next step.”
Of his fastball and how difficult it was on Pittsburgh hitters, Severino wasn’t surprised by that, either.
“Of course," he smiled. "I had 60-something days to rest."
Severino still doesn’t believe he needed to be out as long as he was, but in the last week several times acknowledged the timing for his return could not be better. Mostly, that has to do with the uncertainty surrounding Frankie Montas, the Yankees’ headline trade deadline acquisition who was placed on the IL Tuesday with right shoulder inflammation, a similar ailment he dealt with earlier in the season with Oakland. That time it cost him nearly three weeks.
But even pre-injury, Montas, acquired in large part because of his good career numbers against the Astros, had not distinguished himself as a Yankee. When he was placed on the IL, Montas was 1-3 with a 6.85 in eight starts as a Yankee, after going 4-9 but with a 3.18 ERA in 19 starts with the A’s.
The Yankees believe Montas will be healthy in time for the postseason, but they would prefer not to have to count on it.
An effective. Severino doesn’t eliminate the Yankees’ need for a healthy Montas – you can never have enough pitching, etc. – but it’s less of a worry.
“It’s big-time, especially with Frankie going down,” Aaron Judge said of having Severino back. “Frankie was a big part of our rotation but now, getting Sevy back, that’s another big part of our rotation. I liked what I saw tonight, pumping [fastballs] up there 97-98, working all his offspeed pitches and attacking. I felt like every time I looked up [at the scoreboard], it was 0-1, 0-2…he’s a bulldog on the mound. He’s definitely going to be a big piece down the stretch.”
Severino should be bumped into the 75-80 pitch range in his next start and should be stretched out enough to throw 100 pitches for the one after that, likely his last before the postseason.
“I was just happy to be back, finally [able to ]come back and help in any way that I can,” Severino said. “I feel really good. I feel confident and ready to get another start.”