Of the dozen-odd injuries the Yankees have miraculously endured this spring, the biggest one won’t be healed anytime soon. That’s according to general manager Brian Cashman, who revealed on Sunday morning that starter Luis Severino’s right lat strain will likely keep him sidelined until after the All-Star break in mid-July.
But it hasn’t been too difficult for the Yankees to stomach Severino’s prolonged absence, since the youngster currently filling the rotation void is performing at an ace-caliber level.
The depleted Yankees, awaiting reinforcements, are indebted to right-hander Domingo German, who’s helped keep the team afloat by virtue of newfound confidence and command on the mound.
And much like how the Yankees didn’t expect to be besieged by injuries right out of the gate, there’s no way they could’ve foreseen German flourishing as a starter in such a short span of time, and under these circumstances.
“We did think he’d be a huge part of [the rotation]. In what exact role? We certainly envisioned him, at the very least, making starts [and] being a valuable member in some way, shape, or form of our club,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone told reporters on Sunday. “And as I have talked a lot about, I feel like when he came into spring training, it was visible the strides he had made going back to last year and now where he’s at now.
“He’s been huge. He really has. He’s been, to this point, one of the better pitchers in the game.”
The numbers actually back Boone’s assesement of German. Among qualified American League starters, German ranks 3rd in ERA (2.35), 3rd in WHIP (0.89), 1st in opponents batting average (.158), 1st in opponents on-base percentage (.225), 1st in opponents slugging average (.245), 4th in ERA+ (192), and 1st in hits allowed per nine innings (5.17).
On Sunday against the Twins at Yankee Stadium, German won his third consecutive start, allowing only one run on four hits and three walks while striking out seven across 6.2 innings. In seven appearances this season (38.1 innings, six starts), the 26-year-old has struck out 39 and walked 12, and his six wins are tied for the most in baseball.
During the offseason, German worked extensively with Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild. And it’s now clear German’s recent success can be attributed to those winter conversations.
“Pretty much the biggest point was about concentration when you’re on the mound and not losing that confidence and concentration at the same time,” said German, who has just 20 big league starts under his belt. “You understand that even if things don’t go your way, you never lose your concentration. And also if a hitter is going to hit a good pitch, make sure that’s exactly the pitch you want to throw. And if you’re executing the pitch, execute with conviction.”
One of the reasons why the Yankees love German’s arsenal is because he relies heavily on his curveball. It’s his second-most-used pitch — one he throws 34.5-percent of the time — and it generates a ton of swings and misses. More often than not, German’s breaking ball looks unhittable, and for a team that stresses a no-fastball approach (Yankees pitchers threw only 47.5-percent fastballs in 2018, lowest mark in baseball), it’s a sight to behold.
Plus, other pitchers inside the Yankees clubhouse have noticed the sharp movement and break on German’s stuff.
“He’s been our ace to this point, right?” reliever Adam Ottavino told reporters on Sunday. “He’s got a lot of weapons, and now I think he’s doing a really good job of getting in the right counts to use them all. You can just tell by the quality of the swings that they’re not seeing him very well. He’s been awesome.”
With Severino on the shelf for the next two months, German, who’s pitching like a Cy Young candidate, will continue to receive opportunities.
Don’t approve of the Yankees balking at free agent Dallas Keuchel’s asking price?
Well, blame it on German’s emergence.
If you want to connect with Tom Hanslin, you can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @TomHanslin.