The New York Yankees are taking a significant risk heading into the 2022 season. While the Bronx Bombers made a few notable additions to their lineup, they ignored a starting rotation that is highly dependent on longtime Yankee Luis Severino.
Before Gerrit Cole arrived in 2020, Severino was New York’s unquestioned ace. But injuries have plagued the 28-year-old for three consecutive seasons, rendering him almost entirely unavailable since his excellent All-Star campaign in 2018.
After a few brief appearances out of the bullpen last year, Severino will occupy a spot in the rotation once again. However, a new setback that is relatively minor on the surface should be of grave concern to the Yankees.
Luis Severino is experiencing soreness during Spring Training
For the first time in a long time, the Yankees entered camp with a healthy Severino. The seventh-year veteran has already been penciled in as New York’s number two starter by manager Aaron Boone. But just over a week until Opening Day, the Dominican experienced his first setback.
Severino was initially scheduled to start Wednesday’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays. However, he was scratched due to body soreness, as Boone explained after Tuesday’s 14-2 win over the Philadelphia Phillies.
“He was a little sore coming out of his last one,” the skipper said via ESPN. “So we just want to push it back a little bit. I feel like it is general and us being cautious. But anytime I say that about a pitcher, especially his stature and what he’s been through, yeah, it gives you a little bit [of a pause]. I feel like it’s something that resolves itself.”
Perhaps Severino’s soreness is affecting his Spring performance thus far. Through two starts, the two-time All-Star has allowed seven runs on eight hits with five walks in only 3.2 innings.
Severino’s next start is currently scheduled for Saturday against the defending World Series champion Atlanta Braves.
Severino experiencing any soreness should give the Yankees great concern
There is little reason to think the sky is falling during Spring Training. Even though Severino’s two starts have been poor, it’s hardly a prediction for his regular-season appearances.
That said, there’s more than enough evidence to assume the soreness he’s dealing with now will lead to further issues down the road.
The sad reality for a guy like Severino is that hurt players often stay hurt. Especially if the player is a flame-throwing pitcher that’s had a laundry list of ailments across the last three seasons:
- 2019: Rotator cuff inflammation, Grade 2 lat strain
- 2020: Partially-torn UCL (Tommy John Surgery)
- 2021: Right groin strain
Severino has given the Yankees 18.0 regular-season and 9.2 postseason innings since the start of 2019. He has faced numerous setbacks, particularly last season, that kept him on New York’s Injured List for over 700 days. Now, following his first “normal” offseason in three years, he’s already experiencing soreness.
Even though the hard-throwing righty is in the Yankees’ Opening Day rotation, the chances of him staying there in the long run seem minuscule.
The New York Yankees will need a healthy, productive Luis Severino
Given his issues with staying on the field, Severino may not be able to give the Yankees 30+ starts anymore. But even 15-20 will go a long way toward the Bombers capturing the AL East crown.
New York is putting a lot of eggs into its current basket of starting pitchers. Cole is easily the safest bet to perform well, although he was noticeably worse in the second half of 2021 (4.14 ERA after the All-Star break) than the first half (2.68 ERA). There’s also Jordan Montgomery and Nestor Cortes Jr., two lefties hoping to build off of career-best seasons, as well as Jameson Taillon, another pitcher with a complicated injury history.
That rotation will need to conquer a loaded Blue Jays lineup, a Red Sox group that just added Trevor Story, and a Rays team that always finds a way to win. No easy task for an elite rotation, let alone New York’s pitching quintet.
By name and talent, Severino is New York’s top starter not named Gerrit Cole. If he can turn back the clock to 2018, the Yankees suddenly look like a playoff lock. But if injuries rear their ugly head yet again, don’t expect to see Pinstripes making a deep run into October.
All statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference.