Severino's battle with Howard opens Yanks' eyes

Club's top prospect impresses Girardi with professional approach against vet

Severino's battle with Howard opens Yanks' eyes

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- It has been easy to spot the extra attention on Luis Severino this spring at Yankees camp, which the young right-hander seems to be handling with a cool demeanor. That should have hinted at how he would deal with going up against proven big league performers.

Severino -- the Yankees' No. 1 prospect, according to MLB.com -- made his Grapefruit League debut on Tuesday, throwing 1 1/3 innings in New York's 5-5 tie with the Phillies at Bright House Field. In all, Severino surrendered a pair of runs on four hits and struck out two without walking a batter. The 21-year-old said that his big souvenir was a showdown with slugger Ryan Howard.

"Howard -- because it's Howard," Severino said. "A long at-bat, it's a good challenge. I tried to strike him out or get him out, but I didn't get it."

With two men on and no outs, Severino impressed the Yankees by not backing down against Howard, who grounded a soft single to center field to collect an RBI. Severino was chased after permitting a fourth single of the inning, a Domonic Brown dunker to left field that dropped in front of Brett Gardner.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi clapped as he went to the mound, telling Severino, "Good job," and seemed to be impressed.

Top Prospects: Severino, NYY

"There's no fear there," Girardi said. "The young man has a lot of belief in what he's doing. He has command, and he went right at guys today. I wasn't sure how he'd react, being the first time, and you worry about guys trying to do too much. But he seemed calm and threw the ball pretty well."

Severino was sharper in his first inning of work, entering to relieve Adam Warren. Severino struck out Cesar Hernandez looking on a slider to end a six-pitch at-bat, then fanned Cameron Rupp on three pitches before shattering Ben Revere's bat on a groundout to third base. Severino touched 95 mph on the radar gun and said that he was not nervous.

"Nah, it's the same ball," Severino said. "You play that way."

Severino started last year at Class A Charleston and was able to finish the season with Double-A Trenton. Overall, he was 6-5 with a 2.46 ERA in 24 Minor League starts at three levels, striking out 127 and walking just 27 around 93 hits in 113 1/3 innings.

Because of that quick rise, Severino said that he believes he can be in the Bronx as soon as this year.

"I hope so; I've got to continue," Severino said. "Like I say, just doing my job."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.