The Yankees erstwhile ace, Luis Severino, returned to a big-league mound Tuesday evening. He looked pretty much like the Luis Severino of old: high-velocity fastballs, darting sliders and a healthy number of strikeouts. Sevy went 4 innings, threw 67 pitches, allowed two hits and two walks while punching out four. A solid debut against a rather porous (read: no Trout) Angels lineup.
Make no mistake, a healthy Severino is a serious weapon. Lest we have forgotten, let’s remember something about Luis Severino: he’s the textbook definition of a live arm. He throws really hard, consistently, with minimal effort, and spins a lethal slider. He works himself into trouble sometimes, and part of me wonders if his destiny is ultimately in the bullpen, but that’s all side dressing. Luis Severino, when healthy, is a fantastic pitcher.
To be honest, unless Severino walked 6 guys or got blown off the mound, tonight wasn’t about results. It was about the visuals and letting the young righty get his sea legs. Mission accomplished. Lindsey Adler at The Athletic got confirmation from Sevy himself of the same:
“I felt great out there,” Severino said after the Yankees’ 8-0 win. “I feel very comfortable out there. Pitches were working great, everything was working great. I’ve been looking forward since it happened in spring training. It’s been a long time, a long road back. But I’m here now and healthy and I can help my team.”
So what now? The Yanks have a few starts to figure out the best way to use Severino in the playoffs. It’s entirely possible the team ends up feeling comfortable using Severino without an opener; James Paxton has that role, too. That’s the ideal situation. But, given how creative the Yanks are already planning to be, how much of a strain is it to plug-and-play Severino the same way?
(By the way, anyone suggesting Severino’s return “proves” the Yankees didn’t need to acquire a decent starter at the deadline is wrong. I can accept that perhaps the price was too high, but you’re telling me you’d rather have J.A. Happ or CC Sabathia on the playoff roster than Marcus Stroman? Get out of town.)
It could very well be that Severino’s best usage pattern in the playoffs is as a long reliever of sorts, a weapon Boone can use to put out fires and extend outings. In a sense, every Yankee starter is effectively that: no one faces a lineup three times anyway. That’s the new norm, and the Yankees bullpen — even minus Dellin Betances, which really bums me out on a personal level — is prepared to bear that burden. Severino’s return adds another arm to the load.
Yankee and Astro fans shouldn’t be so callous as to assume the ALCS is set in stone — playoff baseball borders on randomness — but it’s oh so easy to imagine that showdown of the titans. A healthy, firebreathing Luis Severino helps balance the scales against the Houston Astros. The Yanks clear weakness is the starting pitching; Severino’s return adds strength.