The Yankees are planning to activate right-hander Luis Severino from the injured list on Sunday, manager Aaron Boone said last night (Twitter link via Bryan Hoch of MLB.com). He’ll make his season debut against the Reds after spending the first quarter of the year on the shelf with a lat strain. The news on injured reliever Ian Hamilton is a bit more ominous, as Boone revealed that the right-hander is back in New York to undergo an MRI after being placed on the 15-day IL due to a groin strain.
Severino, 29, will provide a sizable boost to a Yankees rotation that has also been without Carlos Rodon all season and recently lost Domingo German to a 10-game suspension after he was ejected from his most recent start on the heels of a foreign substance check from the umpiring crew. The Yankees have turned to former top prospect Clarke Schmidt and right-hander Jhony Brito in the rotation for much of the season, but neither has pitched well.
Despite the sub-par showings from Brito (5.20 ERA) and Schmidt (6.30), Yankees starters still rank 14th in the Majors with a collective 4.30 ERA. Gerrit Cole’s sensational start to the year skews that number, however. He and German are the only Yankees starters with an ERA under 5.00 at the moment, making Severino’s return of particular importance.
Severino, of course, has proven capable of pitching at an ace-caliber level when healthy. Dating back to the 2017 season, he boasts a 3.10 ERA with a 28.8% strikeout rate and 6.6% walk rate. The “when healthy” caveat carries plenty of weight with regard to Severino, however, as that impressive ERA and K-BB% profile has come in a sample of just 504 2/3 innings — including just 120 frames since the conclusion of the 2018 season. Severino pitched just 12 innings in 2019 due to shoulder and lat injuries, and he underwent Tommy John surgery in February of 2020. His 2021 comeback efforts were largely derailed by a Grade 2 groin strain and some recurring tightness in his shoulder. He pitched just six innings that year.
The 2022 season was Severino’s healthiest since he topped 190 innings in both the 2017-18 seasons, but he still managed only 19 starts and 102 innings of work due to a strain of the same right latissimus dorsi that has plagued him in 2023. The Yankees’ obvious hope is that the issue can be firmly put in the rearview mirror now, but only time will tell. Severino has made a pair of minor league rehab starts, lasting 3 1/3 innings apiece and holding opponents to three runs on eight hits and a pair of walks with six punchouts.
A healthy return will be of great importance not just from a team perspective but also through a personal lens. The Yankees exercised a $15MM option on Severino back in November, and he’s slated to become a free agent for the first time this coming offseason. The hope of pitching a full slate of 30-plus starts is already out the window, but if Severino can avoid the injured list from this point forth, he’ll still be viewed as one of the top arms in the class — obvious health risks notwithstanding.
For the time being, Severino will slot into the rotation along with Cole, Schmidt, Brito and a struggling Nestor Cortes (5.53 ERA in 42 1/3 innings). The team hasn’t gone on record to provide a firm timetable on Rodon, though Jon Heyman of the New York Post reported earlier in the week that a six-week timetable is viewed as a best-case scenario. That seems to generally align with the Yankees’ latest updates on the lefty, as Boone noted to Hoch and others that he’s recently thrown from 90 feet without incident. Rodon will still likely need multiple bullpen sessions, some live batting practice sessions and multiple minor league rehab starts before he’s a realistic option, so a return late next month indeed seems plausible if he can avoid further setbacks.