In all likelihood, Severino's night will be over by the time Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton take the stage in Hempstead, New York. Severino, whose career as a starter was at least temporarily derailed after seven subpar starts between April 8 and May 13, will get another chance tonight against the Toronto Blue Jays as the Yankees desperately try to stave off elimination in the AL wild-card hunt (their elimination number is two).
But Severino (3-8, 5.70) is expected to throw only about 50 pitches, which translates to about three innings. No matter how he does, his performance is not likely to deter the Yankees from their long-term plan for the 22-year-old right-hander.
"I'm not going to look at it too much because I know he's not going for a long period of time," Joe Girardi said. "But we still envision him as a starter. That's how we've envisioned him. Hopefully today will be a good day for him.”
Severino had almost nothing but good days as a rookie in 2015, as he went 5-3 with a 2.89 ERA in 11 starts after being called up at the trade deadline. His dominance led many in the Yankees organization to believe Severino was an ace in the making and would hold down an important post in their 2016 rotation. Then he faltered badly in his second season, allowing 49 hits and eight home runs in his first 36 innings.
Since he was removed from the rotation and sent down to Triple-A Scranton, Severino has remade himself somewhat as a force out of the bullpen. In 11 relief appearances, Severino has allowed just one earned run and eight hits while striking out 25 in 21 1/3 innings pitched. His 0.39 ERA out of the pen is the lowest of any relief pitcher in baseball with a minimum of 20 innings pitched. Although opposing batters were hitting .340 with a .976 OPS against Severino the starter, those numbers dropped to a minuscule .105 and .367 against Severino the reliever.
As a starter, Severino has been a different pitcher. After being recalled in August, he made two starts and allowed 12 earned runs in eight innings for an ERA of 13.50. It raises the question of whether Severino, whose fastball has hit 99 mph, is more reluctant to let it go as a starter, and it promotes concern that he will continue to have difficulty bringing the stuff -- and the aggressiveness -- he has shown out of the bullpen to the mound on nights he starts.
"I don't think it's hard. I think he'll be able to do it," Girardi said. "The bottom line is he's got to be able to locate. If you don't locate against this team, they're going to hurt you. Try to stay out of long counts. And if you can do that, maybe he can get into the fourth.”
Girardi believes that the fact that the Blue Jays lineup is top-heavy with right-handed hitters will benefit Severino, but he acknowledged that the young pitcher's struggles might be more mental than physical. "I expect him to go out and pitch well," Girardi said. "And you hope that he can take that same mentality that he's been using [out of the bullpen]."
Yankees second baseman Starlin Castro, who has been out of the lineup since Sept. 17, after he suffered a hamstring strain running out a double against the Boston Red Sox, ran "arcs" -- the curved portion of the outfield grass, where it meets the skin of the infield -- and Girardi said he was available to pinch hit tonight, with a return to the lineup possible later this week. Despite missing the past seven games, Castro continues to lead the Yankees, rather improbably, with 60 RBIs.
Masahiro Tanaka, who was supposed to pitch tonight but suffered a forearm strain, will be examined by team doctor Christopher Ahmad when the team returns to New York on Tuesday. Girardi said the plan is still for him to make one more start, even if the Yankees are eliminated from playoff contention.