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SportsColumnistsAnthony Rieber

After 707 days, Luis Severino is all the way back

Luis Severino of the Yankees pitches during the

Luis Severino of the Yankees pitches during the ninth inning against the Rangers at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday. Credit: Jim McIsaac

The last time Luis Severino stood on a big-league mound and threw a baseball had been Oct. 15, 2019, in Game 3 of the ALCS against the Astros.

A few things have happened in the world since then.

In Severino’s world, Tommy John surgery happened. And then a setback happened. And then another one.

Still, Severino never gave up trying to make it back to a big-league mound to throw a baseball.

On Tuesday night in the rain at Yankee Stadium, after 707 days, he finally made it back. And Severino’s scoreless two-inning outing has the Yankees dreaming about what could happen – for the good this time -- in the final week-plus of the regular season and, if they make it, in a postseason the team hopes will stretch much deeper than Oct. 15.

"He’s Luis Severino," manager Aaron Boone said after the righthander finished the Yankees’ 7-1 victory over Texas. "I'm not going to cap what that could be. We'll see. It's pretty late here in the season, but that's a talented person and a great pitcher. I don't want to put too many expectations on him, but I'm not going to limit what he's capable of here down the stretch and what kind of role he could serve. Tonight, we celebrate him and just his journey back to a major-league mound. Really happy for him and proud of him."

Severino’s non-playing teammates lined the dugout railing to watch him take the mound in the eighth inning. The Yankees were leading 7-1 after Aaron Judge’s three-run homer in the bottom of the seventh.

Severino had been warming during the half-inning, but Boone probably would have stayed with Michael King had the game remained 4-1. King struck out three in 1 1/3 perfect innings of relief of Jordan Montgomery, including the side looking in the seventh.

But fate and Judge’s blast to right-center allowed Boone to ease in his former ace. Severino trotted in from the bullpen as the rain fell around him.

"I was not thinking about the rain," he said. "I was just thinking about I’m pitching in the game. It doesn’t matter if it was freaking thunder there. I was going to go back there and try to pitch no matter what happened. I was going to go out there and try to win this game."

Severino threw easy gas at 94-95 mph and struck out the first batter he faced, Jose Trevino, on a changeup.

The Yankees saved the baseball as if Severino were a rookie making his major-league debut.

One out later, Leody Tavares cracked a double, but Severino struck out Isiah Kiner-Falefa on his 19th pitch, a slider in the dirt, to end the inning.

In the ninth, Severino needed just 11 pitches to retire the Rangers, allowing only a one-out single by Adolis Garcia.

When Brett Gardner squeezed a pop-up to left for the final out, the Yankees had a victory that allowed them to keep pace with the victorious Blue Jays and Red Sox in the AL wild-card race.

Severino had a moment he had been waiting for since he impressed the Yankees with the life in his arm in spring training. Severino was hoping for a midsummer return, but the setbacks with groin and shoulder injuries forced him to wait until the last day of summer.

Fitting, perhaps, as Severino could be a big part of the Yankees’ fall.

"I'm happy he's back," Judge said. "Happy he's healthy. We're going to need him down the stretch, I know that."

In Severino, King, Clay Holmes, Albert Abreu and Domingo German (who could be activated off the injured list on Wednesday), Boone has multiple-inning options from the right side with 11 games left in the regular season.

But on Tuesday night, that felt secondary to the simple fact that Severino is back.

Asked if the 707 days between outings felt that long, Severino said: "Oh, yes. It did."

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