Luis Severino will be the Yankees’ ace of the future, and that future may be now.
Coming into this season, Severino was thought to be second in the Yankees’ starting rotation behind Masahiro Tanaka.
Where is comes to determining who the ace is, the reason Severino has the edge over Tanaka and the other Yankees starters, Nathan Eovaldi, Michael Pineda, and CC Sabathia, is youth, health, and durability.
Severino is the only Yankees pitcher that has not had to deal with a major injury, as they all did last season. Tanaka and Eovaldi both had elbow problems, Pineda with his shoulder, and Sabathia with his knee and just generally age getting the better of him.
Last season, Severino was sensational, as he went 5-3 with a 2.89 ERA in 11 starts, and had 56 strikeouts in 62.1 innings pitched.
Though it was a small sample size, expectations became very high very fast for Severino, not unlike for the Mets’ Steven Matz. In both cases, it has to be remembered that this is the first time they are on a major-league roster from the start of the season. If they are not perfect every single time out, the teams are not panicking.
Yankees Manager Joe Girardi said of the qualities he’s seen in Severino that show the potential of him becoming a future ace, “I think he’s calm, besides having the great stuff. I don’t think people, unless you have really good stuff, they consider you to possibly be an ace one day. I don’t think he’s intimidated by the situation, I don’t think he’s afraid to pitch on either side of the plate, he is aggressive, he’s an outstanding fielder, he’s a great athlete, those sort of things.”
Severino’s first start this season was in Detroit on April 8, and he gave up three runs on 10 hits in five innings, and then gave up four runs on eight hits in five innings against Seattle on the 15th.
Girardi said of what he’s seen in Severino’s first two starts, “For him, too, it’s eliminating those mistakes. I’ve been pretty pleased with the way he’s thrown the ball, but it comes down to a few mistakes that have really cost him, and I think his stuff has improved every time out.”
On Thursday night, Severino took the mound trying to be the stopper, and end a stretch in which the Yankees lost six of their past seven games.
Severino delivered his best outing of the season, as he allowed just two runs in six innings. He allowed seven hits, including a fifth-inning home run to Mark Canha; did not walk a batter, and struck out four.
Girardi said of Severino, “I thought he was better. I thought he threw the ball okay. To give us six innings and two runs, again we had a chance to win, and that’s what you’re asking from your starter.”
Severino said of being happy with the results of his outing, “A little happy, not great. I think that I made some good pitches.”
The biggest problem in this one, as has been the case for the Yankees all season, is the offensive production. The Yankees were a disappointing 3-for-11 with runners in scoring position.
The Yankees did not give Severino much run support, pushing across just two runs in the first six innings. Entering Thursday night, starting with his starts last season, Severino’s run support average is a meager 2.84, the second-lowest among Major League starters during that span.
Chasen Shreve came in for the seventh inning, and he allowed back-to-back home runs on the first two pitches he threw, to Khris Davis and Coco Crisp that made it 4-2 Oakland.
After the Yankees got one of the runs back in the bottom of the seventh, Johnny Barbato gave up a two-run homer in the top of the eighth to Chris Coghlan that made it 6-3 A’s. This came after Barbato retired the first two batters in the inning. Oakland tacked on a run in the ninth to make it 7-3, which was the final.
Girardi said of what he saw from his lineup, “I thought (Rich) Hill had a really good breaking ball, and what we saw from him at the end of last year. I thought our guys battled and were able to scratch a couple runs across and, you know, after that, it’s 2-2 after six, and our bullpen’s been so good, and they had a tough night tonight.”
Brett Gardner, who came in as a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning on Thursday night, and had a walk and a strikeout, said of what they’re doing to not let this offensive futility become overwhelming, “I think it’s important to take things one day at a time. You have a big picture and you think we’re 5-9, and I just told somebody I’d rather lose nine of 14 in April than in September, you know, so hopefully, it’s one of those things where we can look back on in a few months, and it’s one of those times where it makes us come together and be stronger because of it.”
Barbato said of it being surprising how he and Shreve gave up homers, “You know, you’re not going to be perfect every time. Just have to go out there and make your pitches and threw two good pitches, guy got a barrel on the ball. Obviously, it is what it is. I go out there, first two guys, I’m on point, everything’s going great, next guy I walk on four pitches, can’t do that. Next guy, fall behind in the count, and then throw a fastball, he’s gonna be on time, he’s gonna hit the ball hard. It’s just, you gotta stay positive, that’s all there is to it. I think we’re gonna be fine, it’s just mishappening.”
Barbato said of how frustrating this stretch has been, with hitting and pitching not clicking, “That’s just baseball, it is what it is. I know we’re all going to click eventually, and we’re going to be dangerous when that happens. Right now, everybody just needs to keep a positive mindset and I think we’re going to be perfectly fine.”