Phillips: Luis Severino just keeps getting better and better

It’s funny to think about where Luis Severino was three seasons ago.

Just 22 at the time, the righty was coming off a strong cup of coffee in the majors. After rocketing through the Yankees’ minor league ranks, Severino made 11 starts in 2015, posting a 2.89 ERA in 62.1 innings pitched. It was assumed he would build from there – he was given a rotation spot out of spring training – but Severino’s 2016 did not go as planned.

He bombed his first seven starts, resulting in a demotion to the minors. When he got back to the big leagues in July, it was via the bullpen. He made a few more spot starts in 2016, but half of his appearances that year came as a reliver – and as an effective one at that. With none of the spot starts going well following his demotion, however, some pondered if Severino was better-suited in the pen.

Silly stuff, right?

Sometimes young pitchers require just a bit of patience. With hardly any afforded to him, Severino has gone from a hurried bust label to an ace in the blink of an eye. He earned his spot in the rotation out of spring training last season and never looked back. The third-place finisher in Cy Young voting behind Chris Sale and Corey Kluber, Severino is yet again proving why his name belongs alongside such company this season.

The latest evidence came on Monday.

The Yankees played a day-night double-header in Detroit and Severino got the Game 1 nod. With New desperate for length, he delivered eight innings of 10-K, zero-walk, one-earned run baseball while matching a season-high pitch count of 112. It was Severino’s fourth game this season in which he recorded 10 or more strikeouts and his 24th start since 2017 in which he allowed one earned run or fewer – the most in baseball.

With a 7-4 win, the Yankees improved to 12-1 this season when Severino starts. Severino, meanwhile improved his ERA to 2.20 and picked up his 100th strikeout in two fewer starts than he did a year ago.

Convinced he’s anything other than a bonafide ace yet?

At this point, you’re probably wondering what’s changed. From a physical standpoint, Severino has bulked up as he’s gotten older, but his stature is more or less the same. His stuff has always been electric, but he did tell me he’s worked to vary his slider’s speed and break and his recent outings have also shown an improved changeup. He has made some mechanical adjustments as well.

The biggest difference, however, has been Severino’s mind. A little confidence can go a long way, and Severino is living proof. It’s something he talks about after almost every start.

It’s become clear in the way that he attacks hitters and stands on the mound that Severino believes in every pitch he throws. He lets the ball go with conviction. He should considering his fastball sits at 98 and is backed up by a wipeout breaking ball.

But succeeding in the majors isn’t just about talent. It’s about knowing how to pitch versus simply throwing. Severino how learned how to pitch, and that should scare the rest of the league.

That internal stuff can’t be measured, but there’s no doubt it’s played a role in Severino’s emergence as one of baseball’s top young aces.

Bronx Bomber Bullets

  • After Ronald Torreyes was demoted, Neil Walker became the Yankees’ emergency catcher. Unlike Torreyes, Walker has actually played the position – he was drafted as a backstop. That said, Walker told me he hasn’t caught since 2010 and doesn’t own his own gear. Obviously, he’s hoping he doesn’t need to borrow any.

  • The Yankees-ESPN debacle needs to be settled soon. It would be a disaster if New York had to play three games in the span of 24 hours, from both an injury and quality of play perspective. With the Yankees threatening to boycott interviews with ESPN on gameday, it’s in everyone’s best interest a compromise is reached.

  • The Athletic’s Marc Carig recently wrote an excellent piece on how Aaron Judge’s swing came to be. You should read it:

  • Tommy Kahnle’s rough season got a little rougher on Monday, as he was demoted to Triple-A when New York activated Adam Warren. Kahnle has dealt with mechanical issues, decreased velocity and an injury this year. His ERA is 7.00. Still, it’s a bit surprising that he was sent down after he played such a pivotal role in the bullpen last October.

  • Gleyber Torres is playing like an All-Star. So is Austin Romine.

  • The Yankees used their first-round draft pick (23rd overall) on 18-year-old Anthony Seigler on Monday night. The Cartersville High School (Georgia) product is a switch-hitting catcher... and a switch-pitcher. Expected to stay behind the plate, Seigler’s slot value is $2,815,900.

  • It’s safe to say Giancarlo Stanton remembers the time Mike Fiers hit him in the face with a pitch:


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