Pedro Martinez famously said 15 years ago that he tipped his hat to the Yankees and called them his “Daddy.” On Tuesday, he said it again, this time in a far different context: their handling of pitcher Luis Severino.
“To be honest, I have to tip my hat to the Yankees' system,” the Hall of Fame pitcher and Turner Sports studio analyst said at a lunch in Manhattan with reporters to promote Turner’s coverage of the upcoming National League playoffs.
“Shoulder problems can get behind your ears, but the Yankees took their time to rehab Severino. He knew what he needed to do when it comes to pitching.”
Severino missed the first five months of the season with shoulder problems, then made appearances on Sept. 17 and 22, pitching four and five innings, respectively, without allowing a run.
“I expected him to be more erratic when he came back,” said Martinez, who is close with Severino and has worked with him on his game. “But he’s done an outstanding job of keeping his mechanics intact from where they were.
“I think he must have seen a lot of videos of himself from when he was fine, because he came right back to where he belonged, except this time he is totally healthy. The first thing you see go away when you’re not totally healthy is your location, and so far what we have seen from Severino is pinpoint control — up, down, in and out.
“The slider is not a little flat like it was in the postseason last year. It’s not flat. It’s sharp and biting down. That tells you your fingers are really on top, the arm is not worried about what it is feeling, and it’s great news for the Yankees. I just hope he continues to do that and doesn’t get hurt.”
Martinez said in a perfect world, he would have had Severino sit out the entire season, but he realizes the Yankees’ pitching needs make him a valuable postseason piece.
Speaking of which, Martinez said the fact that Severino is fresh from his long layoff “is a huge advantage for the Yankees, even though they’re not going to expose him for more than 75, 80 pitches and five innings.”
It helps that the five months off do not seem to have compromised Severino’s fitness.
“They did an outstanding job of keeping him sharp,” Martinez said. “If you watch Severino, he’s in great shape. It’s beautiful to watch.”
Martinez said it was his former Red Sox teammate, David Ortiz, who initially suggested he work with Severino after Ortiz hit two home runs against him in May 2016.
“David Ortiz took him deep twice and he was the one who said, ‘He needs help; he’s a huge fan of yours, and you can help him,’ ” Martinez said. “That’s having a heart. That’s caring about somebody else.”
Martinez picked the Astros to win the World Series, and advised the Yankees to do whatever they can to secure home-field advantage for a possible ALCS matchup against Houston.
“I’ve been there at Yankee Stadium,” he said. “You remember, ‘Who’s your Daddy?’ Sixty-four thousand people in your ears, ‘Who’s your Daddy,’ and the stadium’s shaking and you have to go two inches off the black and then put that changeup right there, and block everything. I was able to. I enjoyed it, actually.”
Martinez also has served as an adviser to the Mets’ would-be closer, Edwin Diaz, who had an awful first season in New York.
Martinez said Diaz, like many before him, had trouble adjusting to the big city, but that the Mets should stick with him.
“It’s hard to give up on such a young arm and such a young kid,” he said. “The future for that kid might be really bright. It’s just getting him to believe, have someone he can trust when it’s working. When things go south, have someone to slow him down a little bit.”
Martinez said he has a lot in common with Diaz in terms of their builds and throwing styles. Diaz can expect a visit from the pitching doctor this offseason.
“Don’t be surprised if I show up in Puerto Rico and do a little work with him,” Martinez said. “I feel bad to see such a young player struggling like that.”