Luis Severino will be given a second chance to thrive in a do-or-die setting.
After several weeks of dialogue and speculation, Yankees’ manager Aaron Boone announced on Tuesday afternoon that the 24-year-old right-hander will start the American League Wild Card game against the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday night in the Bronx.
This decision came as somewhat of a surprise, since veteran left-hander J.A. Happ — who was undoubtedly the team’s strongest starter during the second-half — had been aligned to pitch the one-game playoff on regular four-days rest. With this move, Severino will start on seven-days rest.
Severino, who retired only one batter in last season’s AL wild card game against the Minnesota Twins, uniquely experienced the ebbs and flows to a baseball season in 2018. In his first 18 starts, he went 16-2 with a 1.98 ERA, which made him a midseason All-Star and front runner for AL Cy Young honors. But in his 12 starts after the All-Star break, Severino posted a 5-6 record, 5.57 ERA, and .291 batting average-against.
To Severino’s credit, he turned things around in late September, pitching to a 2.04 ERA over his last three outings. Overall, he finished the regular season with a 19-8 record and 3.39 ERA in 32 starts (191.1 innings).
The winner of the wild card game will advance to a best-of-five ALDS series against the Boston Red Sox, which begins on Friday night at Fenway Park.
Here are the takeaways from Boone’s Tuesday press conference:
Boone on tabbing Severino over Happ, Masahiro Tanaka
“Really excited to give him the ball tomorrow. Feel like after some bumps in the road — certainly the second-half of the season — he’s turned a corner and really started to throw the ball better. I think he’s ready for this. He’ll be pitching on plenty of rest, and hopefully he can get us off to a good start tomorrow.”
“We met Saturday night as a staff and [Yankees general manager Brian Cashman] came up to Boston. We talked through it. A lot of guys had input on the decision and had reasons why one way or the other. I just kind of took all that information and slept on it, and felt like at some point Sunday is when I decided for sure that I wanted to go with Sevy in this game. And that’s where we’re at with it.”
“Everything goes into the decision — performance, experience, stuff, opponent, people’s input. But I just felt really comfortable going with Sevy and feel like he’s going to get us off on a good note tomorrow. I can’t wait to see him go do his thing.”
“It’s about tomorrow for us. And the fact that J.A. is on the roster for tomorrow’s game, putting him in play, this is all-hands-on-deck for tomorrow… I feel like with all of our guys, when we’re playing well or at our best, we can match up and beat anyone.”
Boone on experiencing the postseason as a major league player and manager
“This is what you play for, an opportunity to chase the ultimate prize. And we have that opportunity. That’s what you play for as a player. That’s what I’m in it for in this seat. We have a special group in there that I think is capable of being a really special club, and now we get to go find out and chase that down. I’m sure there’s a lot of similarities, from the excitement, from the butterflies, just the ultimate in competition when you’re going up against other great teams that are playing for a lot. It’s something that’s a privilege and it’s something that none of us take lightly.”
Boone on whether Severino’s 2017 wild card performance factored into the decision
“I don’t know. I know he struggled obviously in that game. But I also look at it as one game. And again, what he was able to do going forward in the playoffs. He’s uniquely positioned as a young man in this game that has experienced a lot, and I think he’s very equipped to handle all that goes with this game. I’ve talked about him a lot. He’s dealt with massive success, he’s dealt with struggles, he’s dealt with going to the bullpen. He’s dealt with things this year, as far as having the kind of first half he did and then going through a few week stretch where he struggled on the mound. So, I think he’s equipped in so many ways to handle this, and perhaps most importantly he’s equipped with amazing stuff and the ability to dominate big league hitters because he’s such a talented pitcher. Again, I can’t wait to see him go do it.”
Gary Sanchez will catch Severino in the Wild Card game
“[Gary Sanchez] will be my catcher, and I’m very confident. Those two are very close. So, sometimes some of the things they get into that have been seen is just two passionate guys, two guys that are like brothers in a lot of ways. I am confident that they are in a good place, will be on the same page, and think they will give us a great chance to win tomorrow night.”
Boone hasn’t considered rotation alignment for an ALDS against Boston
“No, because you never know what transpires tomorrow. We’ve got to go win. Hopefully we’ll be able to do that, and then when the dust settles after tomorrow night, who knows what happens or how that happens, then you go from there. But, first thing’s first. Boston doesn’t happen if we don’t go out and take care of business tomorrow night. With the starting pitchers that we do have on the roster, obviously tomorrow is truly an all-hands-on-deck to try and win a game.”
Boone on Oakland’s decision to employ “The Opener”
“We’ve seen over the last five or 10 years just how big a factor the bullpen has been in a lot of teams’ runs to a world championship. And I would say even over the last couple years and certainly this year with what we’ve seen from Tampa and other clubs, it’s even gone to another level with how teams are using and how bullpens are continuing to evolve. So, we’re certainly prepared for that kind of scenario tomorrow and we know the A’s have a ton of really good arms over there that present a lot of challenges for us. We’ll just be prepared as best we can to handle that and succeed… I wouldn’t say it changes our lineup that much.”
Boone on if a strong regular season adds more pressure in a one-game playoff
“When you put this uniform on, that goes with the territory. I view that pressure as a privilege, and we’ll all embrace that and look to apply that to our opponent. Yeah, we’ve had a great season to this point, but that’s now behind us. The real season starts now. Our guys will be ready, and I look forward to watching them go out and do their thing tomorrow night.”
– The Yankees will carry 10 pitchers on the wild card roster, including starters Masahiro Tanaka, Happ, and Lance Lynn. Boone says this will cover the team for several scenarios, such as extra innings. “With Sevy, hopefully he pitches deep into this game,” Boone said. “Obviously, with our bullpen and what we’ll have available at our disposal, we’ll also be very aggressive in making moves or trying to set up the best matchups depending on the game.”