Yankees’ Luis Severino shut down with forearm tightness, may not be ready for Opening Day

Spring Training games have not yet begun and already the New York Yankees have lost two starting pitchers to injury. Three weeks after James Paxton required back surgery, Luis Severino has been shut down with forearm tightness, manager Aaron Boone announced Thursday. He is questionable for Opening Day.

“Unknown if this is gonna be a significant issue that we’re gonna be dealing with that’s gonna cost us a lot of time, or if it’s a small issue,” GM Brian Cashman told reporters, including The Athletic’s Lindsey Adler.

Boone added Severino has a loose body in his elbow, though that’s not giving him trouble now. Severino has been prescribed anti-inflammatory medication and rest to treat the elbow. He was checked out throughout the offseason and cleared to go through his usual throwing program. It wasn’t until he started throwing his changeup this spring that the forearm gave him problems again.

Forearm tightness is a common precursor to Tommy John surgery but surgery can be avoided in some cases. Last year Rays righty Tyler Glasnow went down with forearm tightness in May, avoided surgery, and returned in September (he had a setback in June). The fact Severino’s injury dates back to last postseason seems particularly ominous.

The Yankees are now without Paxton (back), Severino (forearm), and also Domingo German, who is suspended under the league’s domestic violence policy. He is eligible to return in early June. New York’s rotation depth chart currently looks like this:

  1. RHP Gerrit Cole
  2. RHP Masahiro Tanaka
  3. LHP J.A. Happ
  4. LHP Jordan Montgomery
  5. RHP Jonathan Loaisiga
  6. RHP Michael King
  7. RHP Nick Tropeano
  8. RHP Chad Bettis

Happ was on the trade block all winter, but the Yankees opted to keep him once Paxton’s back flared up. Montgomery missed most of 2018 and 2019 with Tommy John surgery. He returned in September but has not thrown a full season’s workload since 2017. Loaisiga and King are quality prospects but unproven at the MLB level. Tropeano and Bettis are journeyman types.

The Yankees navigated through rotation injuries last season with an opener. Setup man Chad Green started 15 games an opener and the Yankees won 11 of those contests. Bettis, King, Loaisiga, Tropeano, and others like Luis Cessa, David Hale, Nick Nelson, and top prospect Deivi Garcia could all be candidates to pitch as a bulk innings guy behind an opener.

Severino missed most of last season with shoulder and lat problems. He made three regular season starts in September and two more in the postseason. The Yankees put an MLB record 30 different players on the injured list in 2019, leading to a training staff overhaul in the winter.

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