The Yankees shut down ace starting pitcher Luis Severino for six weeks on Tuesday after he suffered a setback while rehabbing his shoulder. An MRI revealed a Grade 2 lat strain, which the team said is an independent injury from the right rotator cuff inflammation that landed him on the 10-day IL before the season began.
Severino will not begin throwing again for six weeks. From there, he will have to build up his arm strength and then will likely require a few minor league rehab starts. Even if all of that goes well, Severino will not pitch for the Yankees until mid-June at the earliest.
Starting pitching was the Yankees’ greatest concern coming into the season, even before Severino was scratched from a spring training start and diagnosed with inflammation in his right rotator cuff, the original injury. Now they’ll have to make due without their ace for another two months.
Right now, it’s uncertain if the Yankees will look outside the organization for a starter to patch up the rotation in Severino’s extended absence. Former Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel remains a free agentand could be a valuable addition for New York, even after Severino returns.
But it’s also worth noting that the Yankees lately have been more cautious about signing veteran players when they have suitable players already on the roster. So far they have been impressed with young righthanders Domingo German and Jonathan Loaisiga, who are currently filling in for Severino and CC Sabathia.
German is 2-0 with a 1.64 ERA in his first two starts this season. He has struck out 10, walked seven and allowed just three hits in 11 innings. He carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning against the Orioles in his second start of the year. He could be a viable option to stay in the Yankees’ rotation when Sabathia returns from the heart surgery he had this offseason. (Sabathia is reportedly expected to return to the Yankees for this weekend's series against the White Sox.)
The Yankees also have veteran lefthander Gio Gonzalez pitching for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre. The 33-year-old can opt out of his deal with the Yankees on April 20 if he is still in the minor leagues. Gonzalez was important for the Brewers’ late-season playoff push when they acquired him from the Nationals on August 31, going 3-0 with a 2.13 ERA in five September starts. Gonzalez is not on the Yankees' 40-man roster, so calling him up likely would require a corresponding move transferring Jacoby Ellsbury from the 10-day to the 60-day IL, which would open a 40-man spot for Gonzalez.
So far the Yankees have used Loaisiga more as an extended opener rather than a true starter. Loaisiga started for the Yankees against the Astros on Tuesday night and looked sharp at times. Jose Altuve hit a solo homer off him in the third inning, but he wiggled out of a few jams and struck out five before they relieved him to start the fourth. In his first outing of the season, Loaisiga was removed after four innings of one-run ball.
After Tuesday's 6-3 loss to Houston, the Yankees optioned Loaisiga and will announce a corresponding move on Wednesday.
Bottom line for the Yankees is they have options who are capable of holding over the rotation until Severino is healthy.