The Yankees decided to take things slow with starter Luis Severino as he recovered from a lat injury that kept him on the injured list to start the season. And at times, that process was moving far too slowly for the 29-year-old. But after a pair of successful outings, the Yanks hope their patience paid off.
After allowing one run in a 75-pitch, 4.2-innings debut in Cincinnati, Severino surrendered just two runs (one earned) in 6.2 innings on an efficient 82 pitches while pitching on five days’ rest at Yankee Stadium against San Diego last week.
And after dealing with multiple injuries over the past four seasons, the club hopes that despite a prickly attitude during his latest rehab – he called one bullpen session “unnecessary” – the two sides are rowing in the same direction now.
“He likes to push buttons,” Yanks pitching coach Matt Blake told the New York Post’s Greg Joyce on Wednesday, “but he also realizes we’ve got his best interests in mind, so we’re not just trying to hold him back.”
Severino, who is in the final year of a four-year, $40 million contract extension, said earlier there are no hard feelings with the club over the rehab and “would love to be here the rest of my life” in pinstripes. For his pitching coach, the competitive fire that filled his impatience was just part of the deal.
“There’s a natural tension that you’re always going to have with competitive guys and that’s fine,” Blake told the Post this week. “As long as there’s an understanding between both sides that we all want the same thing, you’re fine with that.”
So far the only likely sign of tension has been in his fastball. In his first two starts, Severino’s fastball velocity (97.3 mph average velocity) has been the highest of his career and ranks in the 93rd percentile for pitchers this season, per Statcast.
The righty has been relying on his heater (56.7 percent of his pitches) more than he has in recent years, with his slider (21 percent) and changeup (19.7 percent) both down slightly from his 19 starts last campaign. Severino has also only thrown two cutters so far this year after that pitch made up 8 percent of his pitches a year ago.
But the results have been so far so good, fanning 10 batters in 11.1 innings while walking four and allowing just five hits for 0.794 WHIP.
Severino takes the ball for his third start Friday night in Los Angeles at the start of a three-game set against a 34-23 Dodgers team. And it comes at a time when he will have about 90 pitches to work.
“I think the idea is he’s not making too big of jumps early on and making sure he’s getting a base underneath him of work,” Blake said about stretching Severino out. “Within that, he’s got time to work on stuff, so he’s not always working hard to recover because he’s making too big a jump. So I think that he feels good physically and that gives him a chance to get quality work in.”
He added: “We would love for him to throw 100 pitches. We’ve just gotta do it in the right amount of steps.”
The Yankees are hoping that the results of their slow and steady approach to building Severino back from injury can provide at least some blueprint for getting Carlos Rodon on the mound for the first time as a Yankee after signing a six-year, $162 million deal this offseason.
Rodon – who rejoined the club to work out in New York last week – has already thrown multiple bullpen sessions and may begin facing hitters in a live batting practice situation sometime next week.
Of course, the injuries are completely different, but perhaps Rodon can take mental solace in seeing Severino’s patience pay off, especially as he has dealt with a frustrating, uncertain and uneven rehabilitation process after dealing with an arm injury and then a back problem that would require a cortisone injection.
For Blake, it is about taking the injury history of the two pitchers in mind and not trying to “push them.”
“So with the long-range in mind, we gotta go step by step. There’s gonna be, not hard conversations, but they want to go faster than what maybe makes sense to go from a physical workload standpoint,” the Yanks pitching coach said. “So you always have to have an objective conversation around why we’re making decisions and hopefully lay it out for them so they understand what this big picture is and not that we’re just holding them back for the sake of holding them back.”
Source: Yahoo Sports