September 21, 2023

At a bad time for the Yankees, Luis Severino is now a concern

July 13, 2022;  Bronx, New York, USA;  New York Yankees starting pitcher Luis Severino (40) walks off the field after the second inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Yankee Stadium.

What’s the worst thing that’s happened to the Yankees since they returned from a successful weekend run in Los Angeles? to lose Aaron Judge a toe injury is high on the list, as is the inhalation of toxic air that probably predicts the eventual end of life on Earth.

Oh yeah, and All-Star starting pitcher Nestor Cortes hit the injured list with an ominous shoulder strain, true Carlo Rodon has been since March – whatever that means Luis Severino is even more important to the success of the team than before.

It’s therefore a terrible time for Severino to come forward as a legitimate concern, but that’s what happened after the right-hander allowed six home runs in two starts and showed a fastball with less speed than usual and even less life – to not to mention a slider that had no bite.

Last Friday at Dodger Stadium, Severino gave up seven runs and nine hits in four innings. On that start, his heater, which had averaged 97.3 mph for the season, dropped to 94.9 mph.

That came as a shock, because in Severino’s first two starts of a season, delayed by a crossbar injury, he usually had the level that made him an ace-type talent when he was healthy.

His follow-up to the LA stink came at Yankee Stadium on Thursday and didn’t ease many concerns. In the 6-5 Yankee loss to Chicago in Game 1 of a doubleheader, Severino allowed four runs in five innings, all on three home runs.

His average fastball speed found a middle ground between normal and uh-oh at 95.6 mph – but he failed to maintain the 96-97 mph he hit during the first two innings. More importantly, it lacked life, zip or ashes Aaron Boonen called it, crunchiness.

“It’s just that crunchiness,” the manager said. “It’s not always the [velocity] number. You can see it from the side. He will often be there with that good 94-95. Same with Gerrit [Cole]. Sometimes he is 94-95. It’s not the numbers. You can see the crispness of it, and it was probably missing a bit.”

Earlier this season, the Mets’ Max Scherzer had a similar problem — his fastball was 93-94, which may be enough, but he had no life. Too often it sat mid-mid, like a high-end battlefield.

At least Scherzer could take solace in knowing a clear reason for his problem; he had a scapular injury and when it healed much of his zipper returned.

Severino says that he is healthy, and that he is not sure why he suddenly lost his best weapon.

“I’m not 100 percent sure what’s going on, but the bottom line is I need to fix it,” he said. “This is not acceptable.”

Severino added that he can succeed on his current velo if he has the lead and is able to hit the corners of the attack zone. Thursday he did not: Jake Burger’s homer in the second came off a 96 mph fastball that was in the middle of the zone, and Louis Robert Jr.‘s in the third was from a 94.9 mph fastball that didn’t quite make it to the outside corner.

The last homer then came Yoan Moncada drove a 95.4 mph, first-pitch heater to center right. That field did take the inside corner, but too many others missed their intended landing spot.

Severino says he needs to take a deeper dive to find out what’s going on. He didn’t immediately answer a question about whether he’s in a dead-arm phase, which wouldn’t be unusual during a pitcher’s fourth start of the season.

“I can’t go out and give up three home runs every time I get the ball,” said Severino. “I need to fix it quickly.”

Suddenly the Yankees must feel the same urgency. With so many key players missing and the American League East not getting any easier, the team is now treading water in the midst of what could be an extraordinary season.

For that they need Severino at his best. Or at least better than this.

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