TAMPA — Luis Severino will start the season on the injured list and while he and the Yankees were reassured by the MRI of his right shoulder, they are not sure when they will get him back. Severino said he is confident his rotator cuff is structurally sound and he will be back soon, but the Yankees will be forced to scramble to start the season without their ace.
“It’s not a good situation when somebody’s doing a bullpen right before their start and they can’t complete it. We’re optimistic from the MRI, but he’s going to be down for a period of time. He won’t start the season on time, because he can’t throw for two weeks,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. “It doesn’t even guarantee it won’t be more than two weeks.
“Hopefully it’s as short as necessary. We need to be sure we give it the time also necessary. He’s an important piece and we’re not going to have him for a period of time,” Cashman continued. “I mean, we’ll adjust, that’s what everyone has to do. It’s a concerning situation until he’s on the mound for a consistent period of time until you forget it ever happened.”
Severino was scratched from Tuesday’s start after feeling a pull in his shoulder in his warmups before the game. The MRI revealed he has inflammation in his right rotator cuff.
Wednesday morning, Severino was confident that he would be ready to throw in two weeks.
“I feel a little pain when I try to lift my arm, but my strength are the same,” Severino said. “That’s why I feel it’s nothing bad.”
In the meantime, Cashman said they will plan to move forward with internal candidates to fill the void. Wednesday, Jonathan Loaisiga was on the mound against the Cardinals and making a case to get those starts in Severino’s place.
Cashman was evasive on the idea of bringing in help, saying it would be hard to make a trade at this point in the year. There are starters available on the free agent market still, but Cashman would not address them.
“We’re going to rely on what we have here in camp and be open to any opportunities that present themselves and make sense. So, what I’ve got is what I’ve got. We’re comfortable with that.” Cashman said. “We also recognize as the season plays out, we’re going to have to add to this group regardless. More realistic additions will come after the draft. You never know. I can’t rule anything out, but I’d say the main focus is what we have.”
Aside from Loaisiga, the Yankees also have Domingo German and Luis Cessa as internal options to start the season.
The Yankees were already planning on starting the season down one starter. CC Sabathia, 38, is behind schedule after having knee surgery and angioplasty this winter. The big lefty is also scheduled to serve a five-game suspension to begin the season for a retaliatory pitch last September.
Severino had already been tabbed as the Yankees’ Opening Day starter, but there is no realistic way he could be ready for the March 28 start at this point.
“It’s frustrating, because the bad thing about baseball is when you don’t get to play baseball. This is the game that I love. I want to be there for the first game,” Severino said. “It’s going to be tough for a little bit. It is better that it happen now than in midseason or at the end of the season. God has a plan for everybody.”
Last month, Severino got a little financial security against these kinds of scares. He signed a four-year, $40 million extension that bought out the rest of his arbitration with an option for his first year of free agency.
The Yankees and Severino agreed to a deal that pays him $4 million with a $2 million bonus this season - just one million more than the number he asked for in arbitration. He gets $10 million in 2020, $10.25 million in 2021 and $11 million in 2022. The club option is for $15 million with a $2.75M buyout.
Considering the brilliance he flashed in the first part of last season, that was a very team-friendly deal.
In his first 18 starts, the righty pitched 118.1 innings to a 1.98 ERA. He had a .195 batting average against, allowed just six home runs and averaged almost 10 strikeouts a game.
But it was also insurance against injuries and a production drop-off like he went through in the second half of the season.
In an 11-start stretch at the end of the season, Severino pitched just 55.1 innings, going 4-5 with a 6.83 ERA with a surprising .323 batting average against. He allowed 13 homers in that span.