Luis Severino, in a Loss, Shows the Yankees What They’ve Gained


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Luis Severino throwing the first pitch of his major league career on Wednesday against the Red Sox.

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Jason Szenes/European Pressphoto Agency

His preparations complete, Luis Severino left the bullpen and made his way across the outfield grass toward the first-base dugout. Soon, he would take the mound in a major league stadium for the first time. As he made that walk, he reflected on what the moment meant.

“I felt really happy to be here,” Severino said through an interpreter.

The way Severino pitched, with a varied repertoire, an uncompromising competitiveness and a calm-beyond-his-years demeanor, left the Yankees feeling pleased, too.

The Yankees lost, 2-1, baffled by the Boston Red Sox knuckleball pitcher Steven Wright, but it seemed a trifling inconvenience when viewed against what they stood to gain: a ballyhooed 21-year-old pitching prospect who lived up to every bit of his billing.

For a team with a brittle starting rotation and an organization that has not produced a rotation regular since Andy Pettitte nearly 20 years ago, Severino offered encouragement. Severino allowed two runs (one earned) and just two hits — one of them a home run by David Ortiz — and struck out seven in five innings.

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Severino fell behind 13 of the 18 batters he faced, but he missed just off the edges and did not walk a batter. Six times the Red Sox ran the count full, but Severino won every battle — including a 10-pitch at-bat that ended with a strikeout of Mike Napoli. The other run he allowed came on a two-out, second-inning double by Alejandro De Aza that scored Napoli, who had reached on third baseman Chase Headley’s throwing error.

The Red Sox could do little with Severino’s fastball, which sat mostly at 96 miles per hour; a cut fastball; a tight slider; and a sporadically used changeup. The home run and the double were the only balls they hit out of the infield.

Ortiz called Severino’s pitches “explosive,” and Blake Swihart complimented his composure.

“There’s no question we’ll see Severino a lot in years to come,” Red Sox Manager John Farrell said. “That’s a good-looking young pitcher.”

Severino received as many kudos from his teammates. Several used the same phrase to describe his demeanor: as if he had been here before. “He was a bulldog,” outfielder Chris Young said. “And I thought his stuff was electric. He was amazing.”

Severino was the 14th Yankee to make his major league debut this season, and easily the most eagerly awaited. Severino, outfielder Aaron Judge and first baseman Greg Bird are the prospects General Manager Brian Cashman refused to part with before last Friday’s nonwaiver trade deadline, which nixed any chance they had to acquire any of the coveted pitchers who were available, including David Price.

Such anticipation for an elite pitching prospect is not uncommon. Stephen Strasburg, Mark Prior and Matt Harvey generated a kinetic buzz when they arrived in the major leagues. But Jim Hendry — a Cashman adviser who was the Cubs’ general manager when Prior debuted — said it was typically college pitchers who generated the most excitement because they had reached the major leagues shortly after they had been drafted.

“You knew there weren’t far off,” Hendry said. “Severino is different.”

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Luis Severino looked toward the dugout after Boston’s designated hitter, David Ortiz, center, homered in the fourth inning.

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Kathy Willens/Associated Press

The Yankees signed Severino in 2012, but they did not have much competition and it did not become clear what type of prospect they had until he arrived in the United States the next year. He began last season at Class A Charleston and progressed quickly enough that the Yankees limited his innings and pitch counts so that he would be available to join them this season without restrictions.

Manager Joe Girardi said it was not unreasonable to expect Severino to go further into games after the first-game adrenaline abates. The Yankees can certainly use more performances like Wednesday, given the delicate state of their rotation. Michael Pineda is expected to be out for a month with a strained right forearm, and Masahiro Tanaka and Ivan Nova are being treated gently while recovering from torn elbow ligaments. The erstwhile ace, C. C. Sabathia, has performed far below his standards.

Headley said that while the Yankees did not swing a trade last week, as many of the other contenders did, the addition of Severino could give them that kind of boost. “When you bring up someone that has that kind of ability, it can really swing the needle,” Headley said.

The Yankees did not swing the bats well against Wright, whose knuckleball dipped and darted, and was as hard for Swihart, the Red Sox catcher, to handle as it was for the Yankees batters to hit — no small task against a team that had scored 90 runs in its previous 10 games. They managed only four hits and struck out nine times in eight innings against Wright, their only run coming on Carlos Beltran’s solo homer.

The Yankees managed to put two runners on in the ninth, but closer Koji Uehara retired Brian McCann on a fly ball to center to end the game.

The Yankees were hoping from McCann what the Red Sox got from Ortiz in the fourth, when he ripped a 2-0 fastball on the inner half of the plate far into the right-field bleachers. It was his 46th career home run at the Stadium.

It was also one of the few moments when Severino did look as if it was just another night in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre or Trenton, the two minor league affiliates where he pitched this season. It was, he said, about the only difference.

“When you make a mistake,” Severino said. “You pay for it here.”

INSIDE PITCH

The Yankees re-signed first baseman-outfielder GARRETT JONES on Wednesday, less than a week after they designated him for assignment when they acquired DUSTIN ACKLEY from Seattle. But Ackley injured his back, and Jones agreed to come back.



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