The Luis Severino bullpen experiment has been a success so far. He did walk three in his lone appearance in the weekend series at Fenway (which still gives me ulcers to think about), but prior to that outing he had not surrendered an earned run since returning from the minors to aid an ailing bullpen.
The bullpen is still very shaky (which is to be expected when two of your best relief arms are traded away at the deadline), but Severino has been a pleasant surprise. He has temporarily discarded the changeup project and has used his lively fastball and breaking ball combination to regain his confidence. The shortened appearances out of the bullpen have allowed him to shorten his pitch selection and exit before hitters can figure him out. He also said has also grown more comfortable pitching out of the stretch through pitching in relief.
The 22-year-old has once again found his command that eluded him for the early parts of this season. His ratio of strikes swinging to strikes looking has evened out while in the bullpen, and he has said he is doing a much better job of hitting the glove since being called up to start the month. A solid example of his improved command came over the weekend when Severino painted the outside corner to strike out Dustin Perdroia looking with runners on to preserve a one-run lead. The bullpen has been a solid platform to rebuild himself as a pitcher while helping the team win games.
However, Severino would further help the team in 2017 if he was back in the starting rotation and finding his groove that we saw him in during the 2015 season.
Given the weak free agent crop for starting pitching, the Yankees will likely have an easier time reloading the bullpen than the starting rotation. Aside from Tanaka, who knows what to expect from the rotation next season. How many miles are left on CC Sabathia? Who will replace Nathan Eovaldi as he continues to recover from another Tommy John surgery? What can be expected of Luis Cessa, Chad Green, and Bryan Mitchell? Then there’s Michael Pineda. That’s all I’ll say about him.
Severino has said numerous times that he sees himself as a starter. The Yankees have echoed that statement, and hope he can return to the level he was pitching at last season when he boasted a 2.89 ERA in 11 starts.
For now, Severino is fine where he is. Bringing him into relief situations with runners on base has allowed him to face pressure situations and to see himself get the job done. With just about a full season of major league experience, there is plenty of room for growth for Severino, and he still has an opportunity to become a solid major league starter. We have seen it out of him before. He doesn’t have to become the next Joba Chamberlain.
As good as he has been in the bullpen, the Yankees need starting pitching. The team’s starting ERA is 4.56, good for 19th in the league. The Bombers don’t have the offensive firepower to mask sub-par pitching like in years past.
The Baby Bombers, Gary Sanchez in particular, have given hope to the future of the Yankees offense. For the sake of the future, Severino needs to return to the rotation next year and rediscover the effectiveness that once gave hope to the future of the Yankees rotation.