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Why the Yankees aren’t afraid to roll the dice with Luis Severino

 

Don’t count on Luis Severino redeeming himself with a win or quality start.  He probably won’t pitch long enough to qualify for either.  

Although the Yankees will encounter inevitable drama, tension, and uncertainty against the Oakland Athletics in the American League Wild Card game on Wednesday night in the Bronx, their pitching blueprint has already been divulged.  Expect manager Aaron Boone’s patience to be thin.  Expect his leashes to be short.  Expect him to pull out all the stops.

Unless Severino is lights-out against an Oakland lineup that shellacked him back on September 2, all signs indicate that Boone won’t hesitate to take the ball from the 24-year-old right-hander before the game reaches the fifth inning.  For better or worse, Severino will be micromanaged. 

“With Sevy, hopefully he pitches deep into this game,” Boone told reporters Tuesday afternoon.  “But 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.”

And bet on the Yankees doing just that.  This one-game playoff will showcase two dominant bullpens, and while New York won’t match the Athletics by employing “The Opener” strategy, figure relievers Chad Green, Jonathan Holder, and David Robertson are on the mound in the early-to-mid innings.  It wouldn’t be new ground for Green or Robertson, by the way, since the tandem was called upon to clean up Severino’s early mess in last season’s wild card game against the Minnesota Twins. 

So, prepare for several calls to the bullpen.  Whatever it takes to survive and advance.

Even Severino is picking up on the hints. 

“I just want to win,” Severino said Tuesday.  “Whatever happens, if I can go four good innings and then the bullpen comes, that would be great.  I just want to win and move up and go to Boston and try to win there.”

Severino has 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, he 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).

“Really excited to give him the ball tomorrow,” Boone said of Severino, who will start on eight-days rest.  “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.

“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.”

Severino has expressed his desire to pitch under the bright lights on several occasions.  And through his ups and downs, through the thick and thin, Boone has stood by Severino.  They both wanted to see this scenario play out.

“It means a lot.  It means that they trust me,” Severino said.  “They know that I can be good, that I can be better.  I mean, you guys know me; I can have trouble, and the next start I can be good.  If something bad happens, it happens at that time, I just get over it and keep working and get better.

“I think it’s going to be good.  It’s a good rest.  I threw two bullpens in between [starts], and I feel good.  I feel like I always feel; I feel ready.  I feel that I can do a good job.”

The winner of the Wild Card game will advance to a best-of-five ALDS against the Boston Red Sox, which begins on Friday night at Fenway Park.

 

If you want to connect with Tom Hanslin, email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @tomhanslin.

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