What’s the worst thing that’s happened to the Yankees since returning from a successful weekend streak in Los Angeles? Losing Judge Aaron to a toe injury tops the list, as does breathing toxic air that portends the eventual end of life on Earth.
Oh yes, and the All-Star starting pitcher Nestor Cortes hit the disabled list with a worrying shoulder pull, where Carlos Rodon since March — which means that Luis Severino is even more important to the success of the team than it was before.
So it’s a terrible moment for Severino to emerge as a legitimate concern, but that’s what happened after the right-hander allowed six homers from two starts and presented a fastball with less speed than d habit let alone life – not to mention a slider that lacked bite.
Last Friday at Dodger Stadium, Severino allowed seven runs and nine hits over four innings. At this start, his heater, which had averaged 97.3 mph over the season, dropped to 94.9 mph.
It came as a bit of a shock, because in Severino’s first two starts of a season delayed by a lat injury, he mostly showcased the level of things that made him an ace-type talent when in good health.
His follow-up to the LA stunner came Thursday at Yankee Stadium and did not allay many concerns. In the Yankees’ 6-5 loss to Chicago in Game 1 of a doubleheader, Severino allowed four runs over five innings, all on three home runs.
Her average fastball speed found a middle ground between par and uh-oh at 95.6mph – but she failed to maintain the 96-97mph she hit in the first two sleeves. More importantly, it lacked life, zip or Aaron Boon called him, crispy.
“It’s just that sharpness,” the manager said. “It’s not always the [velocity] number. You can say aside. He will be there many times with that good 94-95. Even with Gerrit [Cole]. Sometimes he is 94-95 years old. It’s not the numbers. You can see the crispiness on it, and it was probably lacking a bit.
Earlier this season, the Mets Max Scherzer had a similar problem – his fastball was 93-94, which may be good enough, but he had no life. Too often, he sat in the middle of the middle, like a high-end batting practice ground.
At least Scherzer could take comfort in knowing a clear reason for his problem; he had an injury to his shoulder blade, and when it healed, a large part of his zipper came back.
Severino says he’s in good health and he doesn’t know exactly why he suddenly lost his best weapon.
“I’m not 100% sure what’s going on, but the bottom line is I have to fix it,” he said. “This is unacceptable.”
Severino added that he can be successful at his current bike if he has command and is able to hit the corners of the strike 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 Luis Robert Jr.‘s in the third was on a 94.9 mph fastball that didn’t quite hit the outside corner.
The last circuit came when Yoan Moncada drove a 95.4 mph first-pitch heater to center right. This pitch actually caught the inside corner, but too many others missed their intended landing spot.
Severino says he needs to venture deeper to figure out what’s going on. He didn’t directly answer the question of whether he’s in a dead arm, which wouldn’t be odd on a pitcher’s fourth start of the season.
“I can’t go out there and give up three home runs every time I get the ball,” Severino said. “I have 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 must now tread water in the midst of what could be a special season.
To do that, they need Severino at his best. Or at least better than that.