NEW YORK — As Luis Severino emerged from the Yankees' bullpen, slowly jogging toward the mound, chants of SEVY echoed across Yankee Stadium.
It had been 707 days since Severino last pitched in a big-league game for the Yankees. For the last 19 months, the right-hander was rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, an arduous journey elongated by a handful of setbacks this summer.
On Tuesday night, however, Severino officially put his procedure behind him, picking up where he left off in pinstripes with two scoreless innings to close out a 7-1 victory over the Rangers.
"A proud moment for him and for his teammates and for all of us that have seen him go through a lot," manager Aaron Boone said after the win. "We're talking about a great pitcher in this league that has obviously had the injury bug and battled different things and worked his tail off to get to this moment."
Serenaded by applause from fans in the Bronx as he was introduced, Severino quickly jumped in front of the first batter he faced with two 94-mph fastballs. Three pitches later, Rangers catcher Jose Trevino swung and missed at a nasty changeup in the dirt.
That was Severino's first strikeout in the Majors since he punched out Astros outfielder George Springer in the fourth inning of Game 3 of the 2019 American League Championship Series.
Severino wrapped up his first frame with another strikeout, getting shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa to chase a slider biting out of the zone. Sure, Severino allowed a ringing double into the right-center field gap with two outs, but considering the circumstances, Severino looked really sharp, mixing his pitches with late life on his heater.
"I think everyone was excited to see him back out there," Yankees starter Jordan Montgomery said. "I can only imagine how excited he was. It was great to see him throw the ball so well, especially that being his first time and he can definitely build off that."
The right-hander's second frame featured more of the same. Rookie Adolis García reached on a base hit with one out, but Severino made quick work of the final two batters he faced, ending the ballgame with a shallow fly ball to left field.
Of Severino's 30 pitches thrown, the right-hander fired in 14 fastballs, averaging 94.5 mph and topping out at 95.3 mph. He didn't shy away from his secondary pitches either, spinning 10 sliders to go along with five changeups and one cutter.
Rangers hitters swung at 14 pitches, whiffing at five of them.
Asked after the game how many times he visualized that moment, toeing the rubber in an MLB game again, Severino cracked a smile.
"Oh, like 100 times," Severino said. "You can think about it but it's nothing like getting there and seeing yourself how it's gonna be. It was fun. It was really fun."
Severino was the story of the night, but Tuesday also marked another complete team victory for the Bombers as they continue to fight for a playoff spot. Behind another strong performance from Montgomery (who also recovered from Tommy John surgery earlier in his career), each of New York's three behemoths went yard.
Giancarlo Stanton and Joey Gallo crushed solo shots in the middle innings before Aaron Judge blasted a three-run shot to the opposite field in the bottom of the seventh, breaking the game wide open.
Boone said after the game that he wanted to use Severino on Tuesday night, preferably in a spot that wasn't a high-leverage situation. Judge's homer pushed the Yankees' lead up to six runs, making the decision to summon Severino in the eighth even easier.
"When you say that 707 days between being on a big-league mound, there's got to be rust, nerves, all of that going out there and I thought he handled himself really well," Boone said. "I thought it was a good game to get him into, a great first step for him. I thought he executed a number of different pitches within the course of the outing and hopefully a step forward for him to help us here down the stretch."
As for what's next, the skipper said he doesn't want to put any limit on what Severino is capable of down the stretch. After all, we're talking about a pitcher that won 19 games in 2018, finishing third in the race for the American League Cy Young Award the year before that.
He doesn't have too much time to get comfortable—with only 10 more games remaining in the regular season—but Severino does have experience working out of the bullpen. After Tuesday night's relief appearance, Severino now has a 0.36 ERA over 12 career outings out of the 'pen, allowing just one run over 25.1 innings.
It was a special moment for Severino and his teammates to celebrate a highly-anticipated return, and an emotional one too, but Judge said it best after the game.
"He's a big part of this organization, a big part of this team and he's been missing for a while," he said. "We're happy he's back, happy he's healthy and we're gonna need him down the stretch."