After shortest postseason start in Yanks history, ace could start ALDS Game 2
By Joe Trezza
NEW YORK -- Hours later, goggles strapped to his forehead, Luis Severino could finally exhale. He can't escape the hard reality of his lackluster postseason debut, but the Yankees are moving on despite it, sparing Severino the burden of wearing it for the offseason.
"It's not going to happen again," Severino said after the Yankees' 8-4 win against the Twins in the American League Wild Card Game on Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium.
The righty is relieved he can even speak in the future tense with regards to this postseason, a scenario tough to envision when Severino walked off the mound in the first inning, his head shaking, the new dubious owner of the shortest postseason start in Yankees history. But even though he left with a 3-0 deficit having recorded just one out, the Yanks rallied back for an exhilarating win and raised an intriguing roster questions: Was Severino's historically subpar start actually good for the Yankees going forward?
"I joked with him, 'Well, you should be ready for Thursday,'" manager Joe Girardi said. "Kind of joked."
The Yankees will need Severino, though, sooner rather than later, as a date with the Indians in the AL Division Series presented by Doosan is just two days away. The righty -- who finished third in the AL with a 2.98 ERA -- threw just 29 pitches over one-third of an inning. Nearly none were effective. But the lack of usages gives the Yanks options regarding when to use him next.
The club has roster decisions to make before Thursday's Game 1 in Cleveland, particularly regarding the bullpen after using Chad Green, Tommy Kahnle and David Robertson for a combined 7 2/3 innings. When the Yankees pitch Severino could hinge on how much rest those relievers need.
Knowing that, Severino volunteered his services out of the bullpen in Game 1. He could also conceivably start Game 2 on Friday on what would technically be two days' rest. If Severino is used out in relief in the ALDS opener, the earliest he could start again would be a potential Game 4 on Monday.
But if Severino starts Game 2, he could be ready again to start Game 5 on Wednesday on full rest. Had Severino gone deep into Tuesday's game, he would have only been able to start Game 4 at the earliest.
Because Severino threw what amounts to a high-leverage bullpen session Tuesday, the Yanks can squeeze two starts out of him if they need.
"I hope [I come back early]," Severino said. "If they need me Friday, I can pitch Friday. Any day they need me, I'm ready to pitch."
The Yankees know they're more likely to get the regular-season version of the righty, who blossomed into one of baseball's brightest young starters this season, than Tuesday's version, who allowed three extra-base hits to the first six hitters and didn't miss a single bat.
Severino allowed five of the first six Twins to reach, gave up two homers and found himself trailing 3-0 an eye blink into the win-or-go-home game. Severino did not elicit a swinging strike on any of his 29 pitches, a jarring statistic for a pitcher who ranked 11th in the Majors in swinging-strike rate.
When he walked off the mound, Severino became the first starter to leave the game after recording just a single out (not due to injury) in a postseason game since Gil Heredia in the 2000 ALDS.
Afterwards, Twins hitters insinuated Severino may have been tipping his pitches.
"I wasn't aware," Severino said. "But now I'll go back, look at the video and try to fix it."
The question now is: When will the Yanks need him to fix it? The answer is still up in the air.
Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.