I knew it. The second Brian Cashman pointed to the spot on his own forearm where Luis Severino complained of pain while talking to reporters last week, I knew it. I knew Severino wouldn’t throw a pitch for the 2020 Yankees, and the news on Tuesday confirmed it. The 2019 Yankees didn’t play a single game with their expected roster, and now the 2020 Yankees won’t play a single game with their expected roster as well.
I’m sick over this Severino news. I don’t mean I’m sick of Yankees getting hurt, which I’m also sick of. I mean I’m sick as in I physically don’t feel well. Even though I expected this news, my heart still sank when I opened Twitter on Tuesday afternoon and my expectations were confirmed. I feel bad as a Yankees fan who wants to watch the team built on paper actually play, and I feel bad for Severino, who is the pitching face of the core of Baby Bombers and who had last season ruined by shoulder and lat problems only to now have this season taken from him as well. The next time Severino pitches for the Yankees in 2021, he will have pitched 20 1/3 major league innings since the end of the 2018 season.
I realize pitchers get hurt and the old saying of “You can never have enough pitching” is a saying for a reason, but when will it end? Seriously, when will it end? After setting the single-season record for most players placed on the injured list, the Yankees began spring training down 40 percent of their rotation and now they will be without their No. 2 starter for the entire season. On top of that, their best player is dealing with a shoulder injury that has held him back from batting.
To make matters worse, Severino first complained of this same forearm issue after his ALCS Game 3 start on Oct. 15. The Yankees’ medical staff examined him after that start and cleared him to pitch in a potential Game 7 in the ALCS, which never happened. During the offseason, the issue subsided because Severino WASN’T PITCHING. As soon as spring training began and he started pitching again, the forearm issue returned. So rather than realizing Severino needed surgery back in October, the Yankees realized it four months later. So instead of being ready in time for the 2021 season, Severino will now miss part of the 2021 season. The botched handling of the injury in October was one final parting gift from the medical staff which oversaw the most injured team in history.
It’s not like this is the first time the team botched an injury with Severino either. In spring training a year ago, he hurt his shoulder. While rehabbing the shoulder injury, he suffered a lat injury, which the team later claimed it was unaware of. When Severino suffered a setback, the team admitted they should have had him undergo an MRI prior to throwing again to make sure he was actually healed. The injuries were going to keep him out for a large part of last season, but the handling of the injuries is what kept him out for all but three starts of it.
So now the Yankees will begin the 2021 season without their No. 2 and 3 starters. 37-year-old J.A. Happ coming off the worst season of his career is now the No. 3 starter. That means Jordan Montgomery, who pitched four innings in the majors last season, is the No. 4 starter. The No. 5 starter? It could be journeyman Chad Bettis, who had a respectable 6.08 ERA for the 2019 Rockies and who has a 5.08 ERA over the last four seasons. It could be Deivi Garcia who has never thrown a pitch in the majors. It could be some opener combination featuring Chad Green, which then hurts the bullpen. There’s a good chance if Nestor Cortes hadn’t been sent to the Mariners would be getting work as a Yankee every fifth day for the second straight season.
The Yankees’ rotation is a mess, and there’s a better chance it gets messier than there is that it gets better. There’s more than four weeks until Opening Day. That’s a lot of time and a lot of spring training games for more injuries to ruin this pitching staff and this team. If you’re holding out for the return of James Paxton, consider that he’s never pitched a full season in the majors in his career, and it’s more likely this isn’t his only injured list appearance of the season than it is that once he returns he will be healthy through the end of the year.
This spring was supposed to be about getting excited to watch the odds-on favorite to win the World Series beat the crap out of the top-heavy league, steamroll their way to a second straight division title and finally overcome the Astros in the ALCS on their way to their first World Series appearance in 11 years. Instead it’s once again about injuries. I’m not worried about winning the division and reaching the postseason. I’m worried about winning in the postseason, and the loss of Severino makes it much harder to win in the postseason.
My book The Next Yankees Era: My Transition from the Core Four to the Baby Bombers is now available as an ebook!