The New York Yankees are going to have some serious decisions to make if right-hander Luis Severino misses significant time.
Spring training games have barely begun, and the New York Yankees rotation has already taken a hit. James Paxton underwent back surgery on Feb. 5 and is projected to miss three to four months. On Saturday, manager Aaron Boone said that the left-hander is expected to begin throwing within the next seven to 10 days. Paxton himself believes he’ll be ready to join the team in May. But even with this optimistic news, his absence is still going to hurt.
To make matters worse, Luis Severino missed his bullpen session on Thursday because of discomfort in his right forearm that he experienced when he threw his changeup. Apparently, he’s dealt with the pain since his last start against the Houston Astros during the 2019 ALCS. Severino flew back to New York on Monday to undergo several tests to figure out what’s wrong.
Even though it’s unclear what’s happening with Severino and if he’ll miss any time, the news is still worrisome. The rotation has already been hurt with Paxton’s injury and Severino has had problems staying healthy in the past (he didn’t make his regular-season debut last year until September). It won’t be a surprise if he ends up on the injured list.
Many recognized the Yankees rotation as the best in the league up until these incidents occurred. The addition of Gerrit Cole took it to the next level, but these two potential absences could be devastating. Without Paxton and Severino, the remainder of the original Yankees’ rotation is comprised of Cole, Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ, and probably Jordan Montgomery.
It’s important to note that Domingo German, who’s been important as a starter when needed for the Bombers in the past, can’t help in this situation because he must serve his 81-game suspension after a domestic violence incident. He will miss the first 63 games of 2020.
If Severino does end up missing time, the Yankees will have two holes to fill. Here’s who they can turn to address these needs.
RHP Jonathan Loaisiga
Jonathan Loaisiga is no stranger to starting games and the Yankees may turn to him for the time being. The Yankees called up the 25-year-old in 2018 and he’s pitched 56.1 innings for them since.
He has eight starts in 24 appearances. Loaisiga has a career ERA of 4.79, 1.509 WHIP, 91 ERA+, and 4.33 FIP while also striking out an impressive 70 batters.
Loaisiga’s numbers aren’t eye-opening by any means. He has potential though and seemingly improves every time he steps foot on the mound.
Nonetheless, we must note that the bullpen would be used heavily in Loaisiga’s starts, as he doesn’t provide length. He’s never pitched more than 5.1 innings in a game, which he did just once during the 2018 season. It was the third start (and appearance) of his career.
The Yankees will at least consider him because of his past. And even if he isn’t a long-term solution, he’ll likely start a few times in Paxton and Severino’s stead.
RHP Mike King
Mike King is a peculiar but plausible option for the Yankees. King had been working his way up through the ranks in the Yankees’ minor league system. In 2019, it seemed like it was only a matter of time before he received the call.
King made his MLB debut on Sept. 27 as a reliever against the Texas Rangers. He pitched two innings, gave up two hits, and allowed one run, although unearned while facing nine batters.
It seemed like King would definitely be around to be a reliever in 2020. He may need to play a bigger role though. If he impresses in spring training, Boone may decide that King is a worthy candidate to begin the year in the rotation.
We haven’t seen King much at all in the majors. It’ll thus be difficult to determine how well he’ll pitch, regardless of the spot. In any case, fans should prepare themselves because they may see the promising youngster start some games for the Bombers.
RHP Clarke Schmidt
Former first-round pick Clarke Schmidt is another youngster who may be used as a starter until the Yankees have a healthy rotation once again.
Schmidt was drafted in 2017 after undergoing Tommy John surgery and has dealt with some health issues since but is coming along nicely. He’s been on an innings limit since 2018 (as a result, he hasn’t even made his Triple-A debut yet) but the Yankees may need him now.
He finished 2019 in Double-A with Trenton, where he made three starts and boasted an impressive 2.37 ERA and 0.79 WHIP while striking out 19 batters and walking just one.
Before Paxton and Severino’s problems arose, it seemed unlikely that Schmidt would make the team out of spring training. But now, the Yankees might need him. If the 24-year-old impresses in spring training, he can make the Opening Day roster but there’s also a chance that he starts the season in Triple-A and then earns the call after pitching in a few games there.
It seemed like he would have nothing more than a bullpen role this year. But because of injuries, the Yanks may call upon him to start a few games.
RHP Deivi Garcia
Deivi Garcia’s situation is similar to Schmidt’s. But he still may not be ready, according to some. Garcia has a very high ceiling and is one of the Yankees’ most promising prospects, but he still has some work to do.
He finished his 2019 season in Triple-A, where he pitched in 11 games, but there is still room for improvement, especially since his ERA in Scranton was over 5.00. The fact that he’s only 20 years old will make the Yankees even more hesitant to bring him up.
There was always a good chance that he’d receive the call at some point in 2020, and that’s even more so the case now that the pitching corps has been depleted, but it’s unclear if Boone and general manager Brian Cashman would be comfortable with Garcia. They may look to judge him based on his spring training performance, which is what they’re likely doing with Schmidt.
RHP Luis Cessa, RHP Chad Green (Openers)
These are two names that Yankees fans know well. There’s a solid chance that the Yankees revert back to the 27-year-old Luis Cessa to start some games in the interim.
Cessa hasn’t started a game for the Yankees since 2018, but they may have no other choice. His Yankee career has been filled with ups and downs. Regardless, the organization may be comfortable with him in a starting role after he came up big during the 2019 playoffs.
The right-hander pitched a total of four innings in two games against the Astros. During that span, he allowed just two hits and no runs while striking out four batters.
Even though Cessa sometimes gave the Yankees depth when he started in the past, he’ll be on a shorter leash this time around. This is due to the fact that the team has the best bullpen in baseball.
Reliever Chad Green may reprise his role as an opener. Green is one of the best middle relievers in the game but succumbed to a rough start in 2019. Nevertheless, he was able to improve from there and was a fantastic opener for the Yankees down the stretch.
It worked for the team last year, so why wouldn’t they go with the opener strategy again? If Cessa really can perform like he did for some of 2019 and in the postseason, fans shouldn’t be surprised to see Green open the game and pitch two innings. Cessa would then enter the game in relief to provide length.
Because the situation is so unclear, anything can happen with the Yankees’ rotation. The unlikeliest of players can come in and solidify a long-term role as a starter or the Yankees can mix it up and do something different. In any case, both players and fans alike are going to pray Severino is fine and healthy by Opening Day.