Yankees seeking improvement from Luis Severino after tweaks and time off

17 July 2023

ANAHEIM — Whether it was rehabbing a lat injury or withstanding several shellings on the mound, the first half of the 2023 season was not kind to Luis Severino. The pitcher — and the Yankees — are praying that the second half brings a fresh start and better results.

Severino, who will start Monday night against the Angels in Anaheim, owns a 7.78 ERA over nine starts and 42.2 innings this year. And while the former Cy Young finalist pitched well in his first two starts and on June 24, he’s allowed a whopping 53 hits, 33 earned runs and 10 home runs over his last seven starts. That stretch includes 31.1 innings, and Severino has a 9.48 ERA over that span.

Severino most recently surrendered seven earned runs over 2.2 innings against the Orioles on July 6. Afterward, he said, “I’m not doing my job right now.” He’s shared similar sentiments after other poor performances this season.

Severino also said that he wanted to use some of the All-Star break to get his mind off baseball. But the righty visited Yankee Stadium last Wednesday and Thursday to get work in, according to pitching coach Matt Blake.

“We basically just tried to dial in the delivery a little bit,” Blake told the Daily News. “I feel like sometimes he gets maybe a little bit rotational and quick with the front side, and that kind of impacts some of his command and some of the sharpness of his secondary [pitches], so just kind of getting him to control his lines a little bit better, stay in his back leg a little better. That was kind of like the first piece of it, and that’s gonna take a little bit of time to iron out.

“It’s always a work in progress when you’re talking about the delivery. There are some things that are smaller adjustments than others. I feel like this is something he can take into the game right away. Now, whether he repeats it for 100 pitches, that’s always [something] you’ll look to see when the game starts and the game speed picks up. But it’s something that he’s done in the past, and we’re just trying to get him back to staying sideways a little longer.”

Blake added that the shape of Severino’s breaking ball was another focus during bullpen reps over the break, as well as the pitcher’s deception. Blake also wants to see Severino be more aggressive with his fastball while avoiding the heart of the plate.

“It’s a lot of little things that we’re just trying to chip away at,” Blake said.

Aaron Boone, meanwhile, is hoping that the break helped Severino. The manager has insisted that the hurler is healthy, and Boone has talked up Severino’s stuff, even when the results have been disappointing.

Boone also said that the Yankees have not considered an attempt to send Severino to the minors to figure things out. “That’s not on the table for us right now,” Boone said when asked about the Blue Jays recently doing exactly that with Alek Manoah.

“It’s Luis Severino,” Boone said. “So it’s not like it’s, ‘Where’s the power? Where’s the stuff?’ It’s about tightening it up, adding some deception to him, and then making some small adjustments that hopefully allow him to be consistent in his execution. Because that’s what it comes down to.”

Boone also said that Severino has remained “confident” throughout this rut. Blake agreed, saying that Severino is in “a good space there mentally” as he searches for ways to correct course.

“Obviously, he’s looking for some answers,” Blake continued. “I think he’s obviously questioning things about what he’s been doing and what he needs to do differently. The nice thing with a guy like this is he has a track record of success that we can lean on and say, ‘OK, what have you done when it’s going well, and what are you currently doing? And let’s try and just check these boxes as we go and try and eliminate as many of the differences as possible.’”

Severino is in need of a quick turnaround. An impending free agent, he hasn’t made a strong case to prospective suitors this year. And if he continues pitching the way that he has, he could be forced out of the Yankees’ rotation once Nestor Cortes is activated in the coming weeks.

For now, however, Blake is happy with the work Severino has put in. He will get a chance to put his adjustments to use for the first time in Anaheim, where he will look to start his second half on a needed high note.

“It’s never fun when you’re going through a prolonged struggle like this,” Blake said, “but we always say if he’s healthy and the work is good, we should be able to get better results than we’re currently getting. I feel like those are things we can say are positive.”


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