Yankees React to Luis Severino's Season-Ending Injury
DUNEDIN, Fla. – Describing the mood in the Yankees' clubhouse after their first victory of the spring as somber is an understatement.
As general manager Brian Cashman revealed that right-hander Luis Severino will undergo Tommy John surgery – ending his 2020 season before it had begun – some players and coaches still hand't heard the heartbreaking news.
Minutes after New York closed out a 4-1 road victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday, skipper Aaron Boone received an update from Cashman as he walked to the Yankees' clubhouse. Standing with the club's pitching coach Matt Blake, their facial expressions said it all.
"My immediate reaction is feeling for him and wanting to check in with him and seeing how he’s feeling," Boone said. "Obviously it’s losing a great pitcher but we’ll manage it we’ll figure it out just try and support Sevy."
Severino had been shut down from his spring throwing program as a precautionary measure after right forearm soreness – that first began last October during the ALCS – began acting up. The right-hander traveled back to New York for further testing on Monday and after seeing two different doctors, Cashman said Tommy John was the "necessary" decision.
"The plan is to have it done as soon as possible," Cashman explained, walking through the process of choosing which doctor will execute the surgery and working through the logistics of their availability.
Later Tuesday evening, Severino posted on social media that he will in fact undergo Tommy John surgery and "adhere to the advice of the medical professionals." The Yankees announced the surgery will take place on Thursday. The procedure will be done by Dr. David Altchek at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York.
The verdict of the testing – specifically an MRI arthrogram on Monday, per Cashman – was that Severino had partially torn the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. This comes after an offseason full of a battery of tests that reportedly came back negative each time until the most recent set.
"Yesterday it was the first time that those repeated physical testings showed he was getting response," Cashman said. Positive ‘yes it hurt right here’ which then mapped where the MRI arthrogram showed a partial tear. So the conclusion with the physical and the MRI arthrogram is Tommy John."
This season-ending injury comes one year after Severino missed the vast majority of the Yankees' 2019 campaign with a right shoulder injury. The 26-year-old was transferred to the injured list prior to Opening Day and didn't make his season debut until mid-September. He went on to pitch in just three games for a total of 12 innings.
Severino threw twice in the postseason for the Bombers and explained last week that he first felt discomfort in his forearm as he was preparing to make a start in Game 7 of the ALCS.
It's suspected that those initial feelings were the start of this long road to Tommy John surgery.
Severino's teammates were crushed by the disheartening news – not just because the team's rotation will be without an ace-caliber starter in the No. 2 spot, but that he's been working so hard for so long to stay on the field after a debilitating season last year.
"It's so sad," backstop Kyle Higashioka said at his locker after being told the news. "I know he’s been fighting to get back on the field from last year and kind of struggling with the shoulder thing then. I’m sure he’s, you know, just devastated to hear the news that he’s going to have to spend another season out.
"As a team we’re all just really feeling for him right now and hoping he’s doing alright."
Higashioka recalled having Tommy John surgery back in 2013, showing a winding scar on his elbow to prove it. He called it an injury that can happen all of sudden, no matter how healthy you feel – consistent to Severino and his recovery coming to a screeching halt this offseason.
"I don't really know if there’s anything you can do to prevent it. In my experience, my arm was feeling great and the ligament just snapped one day," he said, recalling how good Severino's first few Spring Training bullpens had been.
Luke Voit was forlorn as well, saying he wishes a speedy recovery for Severino. He tried to stay positive, but admitted it's tough after how many injuries the Yankees experienced collectively in 2019 – a record-high total of 30 players spending time on the injured list.
"Can’t get any worse, right? Feels like we’re going that way already," he said with a reluctant smile. "There’s not much to say. It’s a frustrating day and crazy that we’re doing this again but you know it’s one of these hints for these young guys to step up and show them that maybe their big league careers are going to start faster than normal. We need someone to be here for us."
Severino isn't the only member of the Yankees' starting staff that will miss an extended period of time in 2019. James Paxton is currently recuperating from his lower back surgery that took place earlier this month. He is expected to return in three months. Right-hander Domingo Germán, who led the rotation in wins last season, is suspended for the first 63 games of the season after violating MLB's domestic violence policy.
On the club's rotation and filling Severino's shoes, Boone did his best to look forward, explaining that this won't change the Bombers' ability to fulfill their potential this season.
"I don’t want to sugarcoat the fact that being without Sevy, that’s a blow. But it doesn’t change our expectations and what we’re truly capable of," Boone said.
Cashman agreed. He's going to miss the entire season, so it's time to focus on which young hurlers can fill a huge void in the rotation effective immediately.
"We certainly have a lot of talented, hungry personnel wanting to make a name for themselves or continue their journey. Losing high caliber players like Paxton or Sevy is going to provide that lane and that opportunity for someone to step up."
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