NEW YORK — When Luis Severino was transferred to the 60-day injured list on August 1, the right-hander didn't shy away from his frustration.
Yes, he was already sidelined with a low grade right lat strain, needing to miss a chunk of time, but he vehemently disagreed with the roster decision that would keep him out until midway through September.
He believed he would be ready to return to the rotation much earlier than that.
Fast forward eight-plus weeks later and Severino finally rejoined the starting staff on Wednesday night, making a statement in his return from the injured list. Even under a pitch count, the righty spun a gem at Yankee Stadium, striking out six over five innings of one-run ball with just two hits allowed against the Pirates.
"I thought he was great," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said after the 14-2 win. "The stuff was there and he looked strong and healthy. I thought he was really sharp, which was encouraging. Hoping to get three, four innings out of him. For him to get through the fifth there, that was big."
In the first inning, Severino ran into some trouble. He walked the leadoff man, Pirates shortstop Oneil Cruz, before center fielder Bryan Reynolds reached on a fielder's choice in the infield. At that point, having thrown 12 pitches already, Severino's first outing back had the opportunity to spiral. Who knows how short of a leash Boone was going to have him on, not wanting to overexert the starter in his first appearance since July 13. Severino locked it in from there, though, striking out second baseman Rodolfo Castro and getting right fielder Ben Gamel to bounce into a 6-3 double play to end the threat.
Severino went on to allow a run on two hits and a sacrifice fly in the fourth, but his other three innings of work on Wednesday featured the right-hander mowing Pirates hitters down, retiring the side in order.
"For as good as he's been this year, I thought it was the best fastball he's had, maybe all year," Boone added. "The consistency of it. I thought the life was there. The lane where he was, he was under control with it. A lot of lefties, so mixed in his changeup a lot tonight."
Severino's heater touched 98.9 mph, averaging 97.2 mph on Wednesday. That's a higher velocity than Severino has had in any start since April, the third-highest average velocity on his fastball this season, per Katie Sharp of Stathead.
Asked about the fastball, Severino smiled and brought back just a sprinkle of sass about his long stint on the injured list.
"Of course," he said. "I had 60-something days to rest."
Severino explained that for the first time in his career, he wasn't trying to strike everybody out. Once he got through that long first inning, he was focused on saving his pitches, aiming to be efficient and last as deep into the game as possible.
A healthy Severino would help any big-league rotation. This is a starter that's been plagued by injuries these last few years, but also a hurler that's pitched well in 2022—3.36 ERA over 17 total starts this year—and has an elite track record. His presence, rejoining the Yankees staff this week, means even more for the Yankees right now.
New York recently lost righty Frankie Montas to right shoulder inflammation, sending him to the 15-day injured list with two weeks remaining in the regular season. Now, their headline acquisition from the trade deadline might not be able to pitch again this season, a blow for the upside of this rotation down the stretch.
Severino showed on Wednesday that he's able to pick up right where he left off. With a few more outings before the postseason begins, New York is in line to get the best version of the right-hander, an enormous piece to have alongside ace Gerrit Cole and All-Star Nestor Cortes.
"Especially with Frankie going down, a big part of our rotation, getting Sevy back, he's another big part of our rotation," Aaron Judge said after Wednesday night's win. "I liked what I saw tonight, pumping up there 97, 98 working all his off-speed pitches, attacking. I feel like every time I looked up there, he was 0-1, 0-2. He's a bulldog on the mound and he's gonna be definitely a big piece down the stretch."
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