Help is on the way.
The Yankees will soon see the return of its ace, Luis Severino. The 25-year-old is on track to face hitters following his next bullpen session, all of which have been positive thus far.
It's obvious that Severino's eventual presence atop the rotation will serve as a major boost. New York starters have pitched to a 4.92 ERA since the All-Star break, 20th in baseball. Despite the inflated number, the Yankees have gone 9-2 since July 31, when they opted not to add a starter via trade.
When Severino does take the hill, it will be his first time doing so since Sept. 25, 2018. He, like any pitcher coming off a near-season long IL stint, will first need to shake off the rust. Remember, too, that there may not be enough time for him to be stretched as a starter, thus making the bullpen a viable alternative.
"Another big step, the ball was coming out very well,'' Aaron Boone said to Ken Davidoff of the New York Post. "We will see, where we are and how much he is built up."
It wouldn't be his first exposure to extended bullpen work. In 2016, he posted a 7.46 ERA in seven starts before falling to triceps inflammation. Following a two month absence, Severino allowed just one run through 23.1 relief innings while striking out 25. Clearly, it's a role he would be comfortable in.
The bullpen stretch seemingly corrected Severino's problems, as 2017 and 2018 produced back-to-back All-Star appearances and two top-10 Cy Young finishes. All signs would have pointed towards a strong 2019 had it not been for rotator cuff and lat injuries.
Considering the length of absence and the injury's severity, it's difficult to predict how exactly Severino will look upon return. The Yankees would love an instant return to ace form, though that shouldn't be the expectation. Anything remotely close to his 3.39 ERA finish a season ago would qualify as an immediate upgrade. Severino will also have a clear benefit of the doubt, the fact that the Yankees are rolling. GM Brian Cashman and Aaron Boone will determine from his rehab starts whether or not he is ready as a starter, or more useful as a reliever for the rest of 2019.
Not trading for a starter more or less confirmed that the team is comfortable entering the postseason with a shaky rotation, highlighting that Severino's return is anticipated, but not being viewed as a season-saving move. Instead, he represents a solid late season acquisition with the ceiling of proven ace-level stuff.
"For me, it's been a really long, long year," Severino said. "Doing these steps, now I feel I'm ready to help my team."
Whether it's out of the bullpen or as a starter, he'll get his chance to help very soon.