Luis Severino is taking nothing for granted, despite being a near Cy Young Award winner in 2017. To be the best, you have to work at it.
With all the accolades that have come to Luis Severino heralding his outstanding season for the New York Yankees in 2017, you might think this would be a good time for him to rest on his laurels. Instead, it looks like he’s just not made that way.
— Luis Severino (@LuisSeverino94) December 1, 2017
At the ripe young age of 23, Severino is proving that he “gets” what it means to be a professional ballplayer with an understanding of the commitment and responsibilities that go along with a desire to rise to the top of any chosen profession.
This may seem like a no-brainer when you consider the wealth and prestige which almost always comes from just donning a major league uniform, and why someone wouldn’t want to take hold of those opportunities without shooting themselves in the foot, lies beyond me and, probably, most of us.
The petition is long and depressing of players who have made the trip through New York, reaped all the rewards and then turned around and gave it all back. From Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden, who couldn’t fight off cocaine and alcohol, to Chad Curtis, who went from hero to convict on sexual molestation charges. Lenny Dykstra, a man haunted by greed and ego and now also a convicted felon, on down to Jim Leyritz, who escaped with his life when he was acquitted on charges of DUI manslaughter, some guys get it, and some don’t.
Severino went to the beach the other day as you can from the video he posted on his Twitter page. But instead of lolling in the sun and cracking open a can of beer, he was lugging weights on his back running hard in the sand. And lest you think this was merely a photo op for posting, toggle down on Severino’s page, and you’ll see numerous other tweets with the same theme – hard work and conditioning.
He had an eye-opening year for the New York Yankees last season. And if you need a reminder, here’s what his numbers looked like: 14-6, 2.98 ERA, 230 strikeouts in 193 innings pitched, which translates to almost 11 strikeouts per nine innings pitched. He had trouble with his command at times, and he faltered a bit in the playoffs, but what we never saw was Severino’s confidence wavering when he was on the mound.
And for that’s where the story goes back to last April when Severino hooked up with Pedro Martinez, not for Martinez to show him how to throw a splitter, but just to talk about pitching at this level and what it takes to excel.
Of diminutive stature on the mound at only 5-foot-11 and 170 pounds, Martinez built his entire Hall of Fame career on being fearless and in control of his body and mind at all times. His attitude when facing a batter was simple, “Here it comes, try to hit it.” In other words, Martinez dominated because he dominated his mind.
And if we need to be reminded what a wise old man once said, “Baseball is ninety percent mental, and the other half is physical,” so be it (Yogi Berra). Severino took hold of what Martinez was attempting to communicate and transformed himself from a Michael Pineda up and down sort to a reliable and top-five Cy Young Award finisher.
Following the vote which went to Corey Kluber, Brendan Kuty, writing for NJ Advanced Media, cited former Yankees manager, Joe Girardi summarizing what he had seen from Severino over the course of the season:
“You think about how far Sevy has come, and how much potential and talent he has, he’s obviously matured a great deal,” ex-Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of Severino in September. “He has so much confidence; it’s almost like he’s become a veteran.”
There it is again, the keywords—confidence and maturity.
The better part of the story, though, is he’s still at it. There’s no time to rest and be satisfied with the past because the present will quickly morph into the future on March 29, 2018, when Aaron Boone will select the Opening Day pitcher for the New York Yankees.
Apparently, Severino “gets” the difference between being good and being great (a la his mentor). And he knows the only way to ensure he gets there is to punish himself with runs in the sand during a “day at the beach” that will pay off later in the bottom of the seventh inning when he needs to reach back on the 120th pitch of his outing to retire the side and turn the game over to the bullpen.
This is what is meant when they talk about “player development,” along with what Boone like to talk about, a player’s upside. The Yankees are fortunate to have Aaron Judge, who also “gets it.” Gary Sanchez is coming along, and this could be his breakout year. Turn to Greg Bird, and you have a player with the fortitude to fight through two years of being sidelined with an injury, only to fight his way back into the lineup at season’s end.
This is not small stuff when you are talking about a championship caliber team the Yankees surely are. Severino’s stroll on the beach, along with his other conditioning work this offseason, is something the Yankees can point to with pride and expectation.
And it wouldn’t hurt a bit if others on the squad took the lead from Luis Severino because that’s where he’s headed – as a leader in the Yankees clubhouse. And in that way, Severino can step into the shoes of another mentor, CC Sabathia who, hopefully, is on his way to rejoining the Yankees in a one-year encore before retirement.