ARLINGTON, Texas — A few days before making his long-awaited 2019 debut, Luis Severino laid out what Yankees fans should expect from him.
“The same guy that they’ve been watching all the past years,” he said. “Electric guy.”
Two starts into his return, the righthander has been mostly that, which has infused the Yankees with optimism entering October. There is reason to believe that their ace, who will make his final regular-season start Saturday night against the Rangers, can be a significant postseason factor.
“Really excited about where Sevy is because I’m confident he’s obviously going to play a huge role for us,” Aaron Boone said.
Severino allowed two hits and struck out four in four scoreless innings against the Angels in his debut on Sept. 17 and followed that up with five scoreless innings against the Blue Jays last Sunday. He allowed three hits and struck out nine.
Severino, who missed most of spring training and the start of the regular season with right shoulder inflammation and then suffered a severe lat strain in April that kept him out until two weeks ago, has displayed his usual arm strength with a fastball that has touched 100 mph. In short, he has shown signs of resembling the pitcher who went 33-14 with a 3.18 ERA, a 1.09 WHIP and 450 strikeouts in 384 2/3 innings the previous two seasons.
“I think the ease with which the stuff is coming out, like I don’t feel he’s had to force it or reach for it necessarily,” Boone said of what has stood out most to him about Severino’s first two starts. “Not that I get into the mechanics of the pitching very much at all, but one of my messages to him his first time out was, ‘hey, stay within your delivery, repeat the delivery,’ and I think he’s done a really good job of that. I think he’s done a really nice job of using his secondary pitches. I feel like the fastball command overall has been good and the stuff’s been there.”
An opposing team scout who saw both of Severino’s starts said there has been some rust, but not much.
“Ball was coming out of his hand easily, not a lot of effort,” the scout said. “The command of his breaking pitches wasn’t great, which is understandable. The curveball and changeup itself were good, but the command was below average, meaning he wasn’t able to always throw them for strikes and when he did throw them for strikes, they weren’t quality strikes, they were over the middle of the plate … You hope that improves. It’s tough going from the environment of extended spring training to rehab starts [in the minors] to here [the majors], but overall, if I’m the Yankees, I’m encouraged.”
Severino’s role for the postseason remains unclear, though it would seem that with another strong outing Saturday, he likely would be the Game 3 starter in the Division Series (Masahiro Tanaka and James Paxton figure to be on tap for Games 1 and 2, in some order). Boone is not ready to tip his hand in that regard and those decisions organizationally haven’t been made yet.
“I look at him as a starter, but everything’s on the table,” Boone said. “How we use him, what games we use him in. Obviously in a five-game series, when you deploy a guy with how the off days [fall] factor into some things in how you use them. But I still view it as everything’s on the table.”