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If Masahiro Tanaka can't go in wild-card game, Yankees have faith in Luis Severino

New York Yankees starting pitcher Luis Severino delivers

New York Yankees starting pitcher Luis Severino delivers a pitch against the Chicago White Sox during the first inning of a baseball game at Yankee Stadium on Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

English is not Luis Severino's native language, but he did not require translation Sunday when asked a simple question that generated a simple answer.

What would he think about starting the American League wild-card playoff game Oct. 6 if called upon?

"I would be happy to, of course," he said after throwing six shutout innings in the Yankees' 6-1 victory over the White Sox at Yankee Stadium.

So being put in a spot of that magnitude would not overwhelm a 21-year-old rookie with 10 career starts? "Of course not," he said. "I'd be happy to go out there."

Let's be clear here: Severino was not lobbying for the job over Masahiro Tanaka or CC Sabathia or whoever else manager Joe Girardi is considering in the likely event the Yankees host the one-game playoff tightrope walk.

The guy was just responding to reporters who relish asking hypothetical questions even more than veteran players and managers avoid them at all costs. And anyway, Tanaka is almost certain to get the call if he is fully recovered from a balky hamstring by then.

But it says here, just in case Girardi is seeking my advice, that Plan B should be based on raw performance over vast experience, meaning Severino over Sabathia.

Nothing against CC, who returned earlier than most expected from an overused knee and has looked pretty good, thank you.

But at the moment, Severino is the closest thing to a given the Yankees have. He has allowed two or fewer runs in eight of his first 10 career starts -- a first in Yankees history -- and three or fewer in nine of them.

And he does not seem like the easily rattled type. I asked him if he always has been a naturally calm person and he said, "Yeah, yeah, I am."

Does Girardi sometimes forget how young Severino is? "You really do," he said, "just because of how calm he is and how prepared he is and has an idea exactly what he wants to do. There aren't a lot of 21-year-old kids who can do that."

Still, Girardi said that even with the confidence the Yankees have in the young man, he expects this Plan B debate that has fascinated fans and journalists to be a moot point. "That's a hypothetical," he said when asked if he would be comfortable with Severino getting the wild-card nod. "I think Tanaka's going to be fine, so that's not too much of a concern of mine."

We shall see. Tanaka said he felt "very good" after doing some throwing from flat ground, but he was far from committing to a wild-card start. "I don't think we're there yet," he said through a translator.

That is what will make this final week of the regular season so interesting for the Yankees.

As the Mets and their fans enjoy a victory lap while jockeying for home field with the Dodgers, Girardi and his staff must figure out when (and if) to trot out Tanaka for a tuneup.

And if his status remains in doubt, what to do with Severino? His next turn should be Friday, but that would leave him with only three days' rest before the wild-card game.

Before Sunday's game, Girardi said this about Tanaka's schedule: "It's a careful situation that we're trying to manage. I wish I knew, really."

Sabathia, 35, has pitched in 19 career postseason games, nearly double the number of major- league games of any kind for Severino.

But there are many examples throughout playoff history of pitchers as young and callow as Severino being thrown into big spots -- sometimes flopping but just as often not.

For example: Game 3 of the 2001 ALDS, in which the Indians entrusted the start to a 21-year-old rookie who went on to allow two earned runs in six innings as the Indians routed the Mariners, 17-2.

Guy by the name of Sabathia.

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