The Yankees have zoomed to forty games over .500. But all eyes are focused on the playoffs and Luis Severino’s return as a starter…
The Yankees may talk about using Luis Severino as a reliever, but the thrust of their thinking and hope is to have him in their starting rotation. With seven-and-a-half weeks remaining until D-Day, Severino is being tended to by the entire coaching staff of the Yankees. Progress continues slow but steady.
Like a thoroughbred poised at the starting gate, Luis Severino would climb on the hill tonight against the Cleveland Indians at Yankee Stadium – if the Yankees would let him. Instead, he is the main attraction in the outfield before each game his team plays without him.
Long before the seats begin to fill at the Stadium, Severino can be seen playing long toss. Graduating, he spins a couple of sliders that draw breaths of relief when he receives the ball from his catcher, not wincing and ready to throw another pitch.
Yankees: The Waiting Is The Hardest Part
That’s the way it goes for the Yankees these days. They fight only to have the best record in baseball, an accomplishment that ensures them home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. They also struggle to keep their players healthy, especially the core of Gleyber Torres, Gio Urshela, DJ LeMahieu, Brett Gardner, and Aroldis Chapman, all of whom are indispensable if the Yankees are to win Number 28, as it’s called.
The Yankees also watch the development and progress of Giancarlo Stanton, Luke Voit, and Aaron Hicks – hoping that they arrive and thrive in time for the real show in October. But no one is watched more closely than Severino.
The condition of the Yankees current starting rotation is the reason for that. J.A. Happ continues to show he cannot be counted on to pitch deep into games. His record shows he has the second-most wins on the team with ten. But his 5.40 ERA reveals the more profound truth.
James Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka remain remarkably inconsistent, making their starts in the postseason a crap-shoot. CC Sabathia will take his 39-year-old body to the mound on Sunday, pitching with heart and determination for how many? – five innings, six innings – maybe.
Only Domingo German (16-2) is labeled as Mr. Reliable. Although, he too is being struck with a case of late-season blues as his velocity ticks down with each start and the innings pile up. This, as the Yankees, grapple with toning his starts down as the regular season draws near.
As much as German has accomplished this year, Luis Severino was and is the ace of the Yankee’s staff. His ability to reach a level of arm strength capable of delivering 90 pitches is what the Yankees need. And beyond that, Severino’s ability to conservatively use those ninety pitches with a command of the zone is something the Yankees can only dream of at this juncture.
Waiting In The Background: Jordan Montgomery
In the background, lying in wait as a sleeper is Jordan Montgomery. The forgotten Yankee, Montgomery is edging closer to a return according to Aaron Boone:
Jordan Montgomery is not Luis Severino. But ever since he caught the eye of Joe Girardi during Spring Training in 2017, Montgomery has responded to every challenge the Yankees have thrown his way (11-7 3.84). So it follows that given a chance, Aaron Boone would rather hand the ball to Montgomery rather than Happ.
In any event, the Yankees are focused on their starting rotation and staying healthy. They can’t do much about either, except to go through the motions of a routine that’s been established for both Severino and Montgomery — hoping, of course, that the balloon doesn’t burst somewhere along the way.
With the possible exception of Luke Voit, these are the two players currently sidelined who can make the most significant difference for the Yankees.
The year began with a talk about the team’s starting pitching. It will end that way as well.