Luis Severino, recovering from Tommy John surgery performed last spring, was already at the point of making rehab starts. Oddly enough, destiny had a Grade 2 groin strain in store for him on June 12, so while we should all be thankful it wasn’t an elbow-related setback, it means he likely won’t be back until mid-to-late July, if things go his way.
Corey Kluber had overcome a dreadful start and was pitching his best ball since 2018. Unfortunately, he suffered a subscapularis muscle strain in his right shoulder in late May, so the expectation is that he will be out of action until late July if there are no setbacks.
What do these star pitchers have in common? Well, lots of things. They are right-handers, they have a history of success pitching in the big leagues, and they play for the Yankees. They’re also are injured, and most importantly, they both have very similar timetables, with targets to return in the next month or month-and-a-half.
As you probably know, the trade deadline this year is on July 30. That means, by that time, both Severino and Kluber could have returned, and if they haven’t, they should be close, IF they have no setbacks.
That’s why the Yankees’ deadline plans, at least on the pitching side of things, will largely depend on the health of their two injured studs. It’s something that fans are certainly used to by now, because management has implied for years that injured stars may be the best reinforcements.
This year, however, the Yankees may want to make sure they make the right call, because their season may depend on what they do at the deadline. Gerrit Cole is a rock-solid ace and Jordan Montgomery, while not the typical number two starter, mostly gets the job done. The ideal setting, however, is for Monty and Domingo German being using more like high-quality backend options than overstretched frontline starters.
That’s why Severino and Kluber are so important to the 2021 Yankees. The former hasn’t pitched in a while, but he surpassed 190 innings in both 2017 and 2018 and was excellent in the process, while the latter just showed he still has it, by putting together a 3.04 ERA in his first 53.1 frames as a Yankee.
The plan was for them to eventually be the number two and three starters, in some order, and while that can still happen, injuries have clouded their status. If one of them, or both, fails to get healthy around the deadline, we should see the Yankees being more active in the search for starting pitching help.
Their health may be the difference between pursuing a fungible arm to add to the mix, and going after a more high-profile José Berríos-type. If New York fails to bring a quality pitcher and Severino and Kluber don’t show any progress, they may pay the price in the postseason, if they even make it that far with a makeshift rotation.
Perhaps starting pitching is not as a high priority as getting a center fielder, for example. Even so, the Yankees can’t just keep hoping that Jameson Taillon and Michael King will magic themselves into frontline arms.
Severino and Kluber may be the solution to the rotation issue if all goes right. They have the potential to be the kind of elite pitchers that King and Montgomery and the like probably cannot be. But they’re still injured in a month, something will need to be done. Otherwise, the Yankees, who looked like the favorites to win the AL East division before the season, may be doomed to miss the playoffs entirely