It can happen fast.
Two weeks ago, many Yankees fans were angry about Boston’s Chris Sale getting the nod over Luis Severino as the American League starter in the All-Star Game.
Currently, that and the possibility of Severino winning the AL Cy Young Award, are the furthest things from anyone’s mind.
For Severino, in his worst slump in two years, getting right by the time he takes the mound in his next start at Fenway Park against the Red Sox Thursday night is front and center.
“A lot of it has to do with the fastball command, I think that’s been the No. 1 thing,” pitching coach Larry Rothschild said.
Severino, though still with a fine overall mark of 14-4 with a 2.94 ERA, is 1-2 with an 8.84 ERA in his last four starts, allowing 19 earned runs in 19 1/3 innings.
In those outings, Severino has allowed a combined seven homers. The righthander allowed a total of six homers in his first 18 starts, a stretch in which he was 13-2 with a 1.98 ERA.
Rothschild said this stretch, and the issues involved, isn’t reminiscent of Severino’s 2016, when he lost his rotation spot and was sent to the minor leagues after starting the season 0-6 with a 7.46 ERA
“He’s got more weapons in his bag right now than he had then,” Rothschild said. “The slider’s much better and the changeup’s better. So I think it’s a lot different.”
The Yankees don’t believe there is anything physically wrong with Severino, and opposing team scouts who have watched him in person of late said they haven’t picked up on anything suggesting there is.
“He’s still throwing hard, nothing looks fatigued with the arm or anything like that,” one rival talent evaluator said. “I saw late swings when he did locate. It looked like to me he wasn’t elevating the ball to the top of the strike zone like he does when he’s really on. I thought he was fighting a little bit of a timing mechanism. And if you look at his first two innings the other day, they were still pretty damn good.”
That was Saturday afternoon against the Royals when Severino, in the first game of a doubleheader, allowed six runs and eight hits over a season-low 4 1/3 innings in a 10-5 loss. He allowed one hit in a scoreless first inning, which included a strikeout, then struck out two in a perfect 11-pitch second. Things began going sideways in the third when a walk and hit batsman contributed to a two-run inning.
“Stuff looked good to me,” another scout said. “Command was inconsistent. He lived in good hitting zones more than he usually does. Guys were sitting on hard stuff and they were getting it.”
Rothschild stressed the common thread has been a lack of fastball command, something Severino had throughout a breakout 2017, when he finished third in Cy Young voting, was the key to his emerging as a top-of-the-rotation arm. Rothschild echoed the scouts to a degree, saying Severino’s stuff hasn’t appeared all that diminished in this rough patch.
And the pitching coach does not believe Severino is tipping his pitches, a topic that has come up.
“It’s something we watch pretty carefully,” Rothschild said.
A third scout said it’s important to keep perspective, saying just about every star pitcher has endured a period such as the one Severino is experiencing.
“They all go through it in their careers, [a lot of times] more than once,” the scout said. “Sale, [Clayton] Kershaw, [Corey] Kluber. All the good ones do. To me, just a bump in the road.”