Is Luis Severino facing the most pressure among the Yankees pitchers?

Yankees' starter Luis Severino is at Yankee Stadium during a training session.

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In the first week of February, CC Sabathia was in the studio with Tiki and Tierney. When asked about which current Yankee would be under the most pressure in 2023, the pitching great named Luis Severino.

“For me, for this season, it would be Luis Severino,” Sabathia said. “We need Sevy to be healthy. He’s an ace when he’s healthy, he just hasn’t been able to pitch 30 starts for us during the season. But if he can do that for us, I feel really good about what this team will be able to do.”

It was a surprise because Sabathia chose a pitcher he had worked with before. In 2017, when Sabathia helped lead the Yankees to game seven of the ALCS, Luis Severino was a candidate for CY Young. But the righty got tired at the end of 2018, and since then he hasn’t been able to consistently pitch.

His 2019 season was ruined by injuries, mostly a lat injury, and then he had Tommy John surgery, which kept him out for almost all of 2020 and 2021. Setbacks in his recovery from Tommy John surgery pushed back his 2022 return, and Luis Severino was on the injured list with a lat injury when the Yankees began their 2023 season.

It is a contract year for Luis Severino

Luis Severino finds himself in unfamiliar territory as he embarks on what could be the most pivotal season of his career. With the end of his four-year, $40 million contract extension approaching, the 28-year-old right-hander, who has battled injuries and made only 22 starts in the past four seasons, faced the prospect of free agency in 2022. However, the Yankees exercised their $15 million option for the 2023 season, indicating their belief in Luis Severino’s potential.

Luis Severino is a starter for the New York Yankees.

Despite the challenges he has faced, Luis Severino has demonstrated his prowess with a stellar 2.85 ERA when he has been healthy. As he has returned from injury, he appears ready and determined to tackle this critical season head-on.

First, it seemed that Luis Severino lost his No. 2 slot in the rotation after the Yankees added Carlos Rodon and Nestor Cortes entered 2023 on the back of an outstanding 2022 season. However, Rodon continues to remain out of the lineup with injuries. Cortes is just a shadow of his former self. Patch-up starters, including Clarke Schimdt, are not up to the expectation. This puts focus back on Luis Severino as he starts his second game on Saturday against the Padres.

Luis Severino’s career has been marred by injuries, resulting in limited innings pitched since 2019, including a recovery period from Tommy John surgery in 2020. However, when he has been able to take the mound, Severino has showcased his dominance and exhibited glimpses of his potential, particularly during the previous season.

In 2021, Luis Severino managed to make 19 starts, registering an impressive 3.18 ERA. Unfortunately, his season was interrupted by a right-lat strain that landed him on the 60-day injured list, much to his frustration. Despite the setback, Yankees manager Aaron Boone acknowledges the formidable skills possessed by the hard-throwing right-hander.

Last year, Luis Severino faced another setback with a right-lat strain, causing him to miss a couple of months. However, he made a successful comeback in September after being reinstated from the 60-day injured list, accumulating 102 innings and delivering two strong starts in the postseason. Prior to that, he endured a complete absence during the 2020 season due to Tommy John surgery, which was followed by setbacks in the form of groin and shoulder issues, significantly limiting his playing time in 2021. Furthermore, he also faced challenges in the 2019 season, battling rotator cuff inflammation and another right-lat strain.

Given Luis Severino’s injury history, the Yankees opted to keep him out of the World Baseball Classic this spring, and it will undoubtedly be a factor to consider when discussing a potential new contract in the future.

Yankees starter Luis-Severino is pitching against the Reds on May 21, 2023.

Heightened expectations from Severino

Luis Severino’s return proved to be well worth the wait. Despite the extended recovery period from a lat strain he suffered during the final week of spring training, and the fact that he hasn’t fully regained his optimal form due to a shortened rehab assignment, Luis Severino showcased his resilience in his season debut.

Operating under a pitch count of 75, Luis Severino progressively grew stronger as the game unfolded, contributing to the Yankees’ 4-1 victory over the Reds at Great American Ball Park. The talented right-hander delivered an impressive performance, striking out five batters and allowing just one run over 4 ²/₃ innings. He finished strong by retiring nine of the last ten hitters he faced, leaving a positive impression with his overall outing.

Now with Rodon is still out and Cortes failing to repeat his magic, the Yankees and fans look to Luis Severino to support Cole and resurrect the Yankees’ rotation. His role has become important in the team’s push to break out of the early chaos and stay in contention for a title this year. This certainly brings pressure on Luis Severino to perform in a game that is crucial for his team to come back and him to satisfy rising expectations.

Sabathia did add the caveat that the whole team will be under pressure to get over the hump in 2023 because the team hasn’t won the ALCS since he was a player.

“I think it’s all of them, right?” Sabathia said. “They’ve kind of fallen short, even when I was there, in 2017, against this Astros organization. I think the pressure is on everybody in that clubhouse. I think they’re all feeling it.”

What do you think? Leave your comment below.

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