ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Luis Severino took another step forward in his comeback from Tommy John surgery Thursday, with his first live batting practice session.
The right-hander, sidelined for over a year following the procedure, is expected back sometime around midseason. He threw about 30 pitches at the Yankees’ Player Development complex in Tampa.
According to Yankees manager Aaron Boone, who was not in attendance when Severino was throwing, hit 96 mph.
“I heard it went really well,’’ Boone said of the session, which was pushed back a day after Severino woke up with a stiff back Wednesday.
Severino’s return would give the Yankees another valuable arm, though their starters, so far, have mostly met expectations.
Corey Kluber, Jameson Taillon and Domingo German have all pitched well, in addition to ace Gerrit Cole.
The rotation entered Thursday with the second lowest ERA in the American League (3.33), trailing only the White Sox.
Severino will still need a rehab assignment before he is considered ready to get back on the roster.
Gio Urshela started at shortstop in Thursday’s 9-1 loss to the Rays, but Boone said he is still dealing with swelling in his left knee, which forced him to miss time over the weekend. Urshela could sit Friday at Baltimore. The already undermanned infield is playing without Gleyber Torres, who is dealing with COVID-19.
Luke Voit got a planned day out of the starting lineup as the Yankees monitor the first baseman’s playing time since his return from March surgery to repair a partially torn meniscus in his left knee. Boone said he didn’t seriously consider using Voit to hit for Mike Ford in the sixth inning with two runners on and the Yankees trailing by four runs. Ford hit into a double play.
“He was available, but a little more late in the game,’’ Boone said after the Yankees’ 9-1 loss to the Rays at Tropicana Field. “I would have used him as a bullet off the bench for a few innings, but not four innings.”
Aaron Judge ended up starting all three games on the artificial turf at Tropicana Field. He doubled and was hit by a pitch on the foot Thursday. He left the lopsided game after the top of the eighth, replaced in right field by Tyler Wade. Boone said he made the move just to get Judge some rest.
The Yankees don’t have an off day until May 24, so they may need to use a sixth starter for a second time this season. Deivi Garcia was called up for that outing, when the Yankees were also in the midst of a 13-day stretch without an off day, as they are now.
Asked if using a sixth starter again during this stretch, Boone said, “It is possible. It’s something we’ll talk about in the coming days to see how we want to handle it.”
Boone added it wasn’t necessarily “likely” they would go that route, though.
Garcia gave up two runs in four innings in his start against the Orioles last month and struggled in his first start since then with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, but came back to toss five scoreless innings for SWB in his last outing.
Aroldis Chapman has been nearly untouchable this season, and a heavier workload plus a recent issue with his fingernail has done little to change that.
The Yankees’ closer pitched for the fourth time in five days Wednesday and recorded his ninth save in a win over the Rays. Tuesday, despite a mid-inning visit from trainer Steve Donohue and Boone, he also threw a scoreless inning for a save against the Rays.
“Tiny problem with my nail,” Chapman said through an interpreter Thursday. “It’s nothing to be alarmed or worried about.”
As for the workload, Chapman said he felt “really good.”
The left-hander entered Thursday having not allowed an earned run this season across 15 innings, with 31 strikeouts to just five walks and four hits. Wednesday, he got the chance to face Mike Brosseau for the first time since the Rays infielder took Chapman deep for a game-winning home run in Game 5 of the ALDS last fall. Chapman struck out Brosseau on Wednesday night.
“Whatever happened in the past, forget about that,” Chapman said. “You can’t really be thinking about that when you’re trying to do your job out there.”
— Additional reporting by Greg Joyce in New York