Mets pitcher Luis Severino during a spring training workout on...

Mets pitcher Luis Severino during a spring training workout on Wednesday in Port St. Lucie, Florida. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Having watched a clean-shaven Luis Severino pitch for the Yankees over the past eight years, seeing him with a beard upon Wednesday’s arrival at Clover Park was a jarring visual.

The Mets set up Severino in the locker previously occupied by Justin Verlander, and before him, someone by the name of Jacob deGrom. It’s prestigious real estate, across from the other corner stall where Francisco Lindor calls home.

When I tell Severino he’s hard to recognize with the facial hair, he laughs — it’s a standard opening line with Bronx defectors — but lets me in on a little secret. Many of the Yankees put the razors away over the winter. They just shave before showing up in Tampa for spring training.

“When I went to Nestor’s Cortes] wedding, everybody had beards,” Severino said of the November nuptials in Miami, attended by many of his former teammates.

Breaking up with the Yankees isn’t as easy as moving to Flushing on a one-year, $13 million deal with the Mets. Severino grew up in the Bronx, forged lifetime relationships there, truly believed he was “going to die a Yankee.” And for all the professional frustration Severino endured there over the past five injury-riddled years, which included missing the entire 2020 season due to Tommy John surgery, he still speaks fondly of his former organization. That said, Severino already is realizing the benefits from a change of scenery.

“I loved my time there,” Severino said. “Don’t get me wrong. But I think it’s going to be good to just have different people thinking differently. The coaching staff, the training staff, with the Yankees was unbelievable. But I think just being on another side to see and talk to people that think differently, I think is going to be helpful for me. And now that they know my history, I think we can start trying to prevent that from the beginning, to work hard on those things before it happens.”

And speaking of beginnings, Severino is hoping that an instrument for his potential turnaround will be a familiar face: the Mets’ newly hired bullpen coach Jose Rosado, who the pitcher has known since he grew up with the Yankees. Both live in Tampa during the offseason, and Severino spent a great deal of time working with Rosado, poring over video and studying his mechanics in an effort to remedy the pitch-tipping problems that torpedoed his last year in the Bronx.

Severino was limited to 18 starts due to a spring training lat muscle strain that delayed his rotation debut and a high-grade oblique strain that ended his season. In between, he went 4-8 with a 6.65 ERA. Opponents hit .301 against him, with a .921 OPS, despite the fact that Severino’s average fastball velocity was 96.4 miles per hour, in the top-10th percentile of MLB. In other words, it was almost as if batters knew what was coming, and that pretty much turned out to be true.

Ultimately, Severino got hurt again before the Yankees could come up with a solution, so now it’s up to the Mets to figure it out. That process continued this winter with Rosado and Mets pitching coach Jeremy Hefner, who met with Severino while he was working out at Driveline in Scottsdale, Arizona. With Rosado already a pitching guru of sorts for Severino, and Hefner’s own unique viewpoint, he’s confident they’ve come up with some fixes.

“Hefner’s a great guy,” Severino said. “He’s got the mentality of a former player, and we got into some new stuff with the video, the numbers, and I think it’s helped a lot.

“For me, last year, I think I was thinking too much about everything. When I’m on the mound, I’m facing the best of the best, I can’t be thinking about, am I tipping? Am I doing this or doing that? I think that’s something I’ve been working hard on this offseason with everything I’ve learned.”

From a physical health standpoint, Severino has focused on something this winter that most people have struggled with at one time or another: Getting enough sleep. Severino has always had terrible sleep habits — leaving the TV on all night when going to bed, staying up until 6 a.m. playing video games — and figures he only averaged around four or five hours a night.

All that, and Severino confessed he’s not even a coffee drinker. He consulted with a sleep specialist to help rein in that bad behavior, and now says he’s getting a better night’s rest after shutting off all those video screens and lowering the room temperature to make it a more comfortable environment. He’s also monitoring the stages of his sleep to help maximize his daily recovery — an essential component for a once elite pitcher who turns 30 next Tuesday.

Severino didn’t do much more than fielding drills during the first workout for pitchers and catchers at Clover Park, so it’s impossible to know just yet if the Mets got the bargain of the offseason by signing the former Yankee. The only certainty? When Severino is physically sound, he’s got the talent of a Cy Young candidate.

“The last two years I’ve been really good, I’ve been an All-Star, and those are the two years I’ve been healthy the whole year,” Severino said. “So the main thing for me is being healthy. It is way easier to compete when you feel healthy.”

The Mets are gambling that this Severino, the guy behind the beard, can be recognized again as the one in peak pinstriped form.

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