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Who will Luis Severino kick out of the rotation?

With the imminent return of an important starter, the Yankees have a decision to make in their rotation.

MLB: Cleveland Guardians at New York Yankees Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Thankfully, it appears that Luis Severino’s road back to the Yankees’ starting rotation is getting shorter, as his rehab assignment has been announced. He’ll start either tomorrow or Thursday for Triple-A Scranton. A potentially electric arm like his could be a much needed boost to a team that has been, let’s say, uninspiring. Like many returns from injury, however, the Yankees will have a decision to make in regard to their starting rotation upon his return.

This decision will likely boil down to removing either Clarke Schmidt or Jhony Brito from the starting staff. Of course, neither feels like an ideal candidate to stick around at the moment, and this decision likely won’t be a permanent one, but it’s one the Yankees will have to face soon.

Both pitchers have made seven starts thus far this year, and each will get a crack at a relatively low-pressure opponent in the A’s. But for now, the resumes are at least similar in length. Schmidt has pitched 29.1 innings over his starts, to the tune of a 5.83 ERA and 5.13 FIP. He has had two starts thus far in which he hasn’t given up an earned run, but outside of those, his pitching lines have been fairly clunky with quite a bit of hard contact. He also hasn’t been able to work all that deep into games, as he’s failed to pitch out of the sixth inning in 2023.

On the brighter side, Schmidt has made some encouraging steps in the larger picture in 2023. His 25.7-percent strikeout rate and 6.4-percent walk rate are each the best that he’s posted in the big leagues, though his overall performance has been dampened by his trouble with the long ball. His 2.15 HR/9 is the eighth-highest mark in the league among starters with at least 25 innings pitched.

New York Yankees v Texas Rangers Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

For rookie Jhony Brito, things haven’t looked much better in 2023. He has pitched 26.2 innings thus far, with an even noisier 6.08 ERA and 5.34 FIP. The 25-year-old righty is walking over 10 percent of opposing batters, and isn’t striking out all that many with a 16.2-percent clip, though that has never really been his game in the minors either. He has that notorious start against the Twins (7 ER in 0.2 IP), and outside of his solid first two outings, his performance has been far from great. It certainly seems as though the league made a quick adjustment to the 25-year-old.

In all reality, the Yankees will almost certainly opt to keep Schmidt around for the time being. He was above Brito on the initial depth chart this year and has more experience at the big league level. I would agree with this sentiment, although I’d also think, at this point, that his use would likely be optimized out of the bullpen (as we saw last season). But of course, these are trying times.

Both Brito and Schmidt are talented; it’s just a matter of putting each pitcher in the best position to succeed going forward, even if neither is exactly an ideal starting pitcher right now. Severino isn’t actually back yet, and the Carlos Rodón situation seems to get more grim by the day. So, this “decision” comes with the assumption that the rotation will remain healthy. This is obviously unrealistic, which makes seeing both of these guys make at least some more starts this year close to a certainty.

Again, Schmidt and Brito are each scheduled to pitch this week, and they could have another chance before Severino’s hopeful return. Schmidt’s start tonight against the Athletics, and Brito’s on Wednesday could play a significant role in the Yankees thought process. It won’t change everything, but if Brito went out and threw seven scoreless or something like that, it would be a lot more difficult for the Yanks to move him.

It feels like the Yankees injury bug has been without mercy this year, but perhaps Luis Severino’s seemingly impending return will be a sign of good things to come. There will always be pitching injuries, and always movement throughout the staff, so no decisions made now will be that permanent in all likelihood, but they are still important. As Brito and Schmidt have struggled to settle in as big league starters, and the Yankees have had issues using them in the most beneficial ways, this impending decision could do a lot to help or harm this team’s pitching situation.