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Luis Severino's second start critical for Yankees in wake of weekend sweep

NEW YORK -- Luis Severino was terrific in his MLB debut last week, and the New York Yankees are hoping the 21-year-old right-hander is just as good in his second start Tuesday night in Cleveland.

With the Toronto Blue Jays streaking and right on the Yankees’ heels in the AL East, he needs to be. Toronto just completed a three-game sweep of New York over the weekend, cutting its deficit in the division to only 1.5 games.

Severino, widely considered the best prospect in the Yankees’ system, gave up just two hits and two runs (one earned) over five innings against the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium. He struck out seven and featured an electric fastball that regularly registered in the mid-to-upper 90s.

“I think it shows you he’s pretty mature for his age,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said Sunday when asked about Severino. “That’s what you want, guys to be able to handle situations, things that are thrown in front of them. So that part I’m really encouraged about. You have a feeling about a person, and you hope your feeling is right.”

The Yankees felt so strongly about Severino’s ceiling that they declined to include him in potential trade packages for the likes of David Price and Cole Hamels. Now, in the middle of a pennant race, they need him to be a consistent member of their shaky starting rotation.

“I’m trying to work on certain pitches and trying to not make any mistakes,” Severino said through a translator. “I feel comfortable. I’m trying to keep my change-up low.”

Severino watched video of his previous start, and felt like he was trying to make perfect pitches. Understandable, given the competition. Severino, though, said he has moved on and is ready to face the Indians.

With fewer ticket requests and less hype surrounding his second start, Girardi figures Severino will be able to focus more on pitching.

“I think it slows down a bit for him,” Girardi said. “The requests probably slow down a little bit. Obviously, whenever you’re making your first start in the big leagues, I think you probably get a ton of phone calls. People want to join in and be a part of it. And you’re excited over it, you start reminiscing about all the things you’ve done to get there, how important is to you. And I think things just start to slow down a bit, and it’s probably more of a normal week [before your next start].”

Girardi said Severino, who went 7-0 with a 1.91 ERA at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, is adjusting to life in the big leagues.

“I think it takes time to build a rapport and maybe what some of the signs that he gives off intentionally or unintentionally are, that sort of thing,” Girardi said. “Understanding what pitches he likes to go with in certain situations, yeah, it’s something you have to go through. It takes catchers time to get familiar with pitchers. There are some things that you have to go through.”

Severino is pretty much the same guy Girardi saw in spring training.

“Going into [his first start], I thought that he was a young man that really wasn’t fazed by his surroundings in spring training,” Girardi said. “He was able to relax and go about his business, and I think that’s what I saw last week. So, it’s kind of what I expected to see. I’m sure I’ll learn a lot more about him as time goes on, and you see him make starts and how he responds to certain situations of adversity. But for the most part, that was kind of what I expected.”