In the midst of competing for one of the final two starting rotation spots, Luis Severino will soon leave the Yankees to pitch for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic.
When your country comes calling, asking you to represent them in a tournament that pits the best baseball players from the world against one another, it’s hard to say no. I get it. But what about when your place on a Major League roster is in question? And that roster is the New York Yankees.
While it’s not entirely fair to say what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, it does, however, make you think.
Gary Sanchez ultimately decided it was more advantageous for him to stay in camp and build camaraderie with his teammates than to play in the WBC.
Dellin Betances, who is engrained as a vital cog in the Yankees machine, wanted to honor his family by playing for the Dominican. And this was before his dustup with management over his arbitration earnings.
For the 22-year-old Severino, the allure of donning his homeland’s colors must have been too much to resist. Yet, one would think that competing with four other starters for only two remaining spots in the rotation would be wiser to do in front of the manager that will eventually make the final decision — rather than watched via television.
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Still only four games into Spring Training, no Yankees starter has yet to allow a single run. Each has looked very good in their own right. Yet it’s Severino who only now has begun to develop a much-needed third pitch — the changeup, to go along with his upper 90s fastball and an above-average slider.
"“I worked on the same stuff Larry told me to work on, mechanics and throw the changeup in the same spot as my fastball,” said Severino. “For me it’s my most important pitch. You can’t be a starter with two pitches, you need more than two pitches.”"
The World Baseball Classic begins in just five days, so it’s very possible Severino doesn’t throw another competitive pitch for the Yankees before he leaves camp. On the bright side, his WBC manager is Yankees first base coach Tony Pena. Pena will relay Sevvy’s progress directly back to his skipper.
Looking over the Dominican Republic’s roster, it’s possible Severino falls behind Johnny Cueto, Bartolo Colon, Carlos Martinez, Ivan Nova, Edinson Volquez, and even Wily Peralta in the pitching pecking order.
Obviously, Pena won’t throw starters more than four or five innings at a time, at least not in the first few rounds of the tournament, but should Severino be tasked with coming out of the bullpen, how does this affect his confidence? After all, he did just tell the Post he wants to be a starter.
Should the remaining Yankees’ shooters in Tampa continue to battle it out late into Spring Training, and Severino either pitches out the bullpen during the WBC or starts a few games and isn’t all that effective, he’ll most likely begin the MLB season out of the ‘pen… or worse, in the minors.
I’d hate to see that happen to Sevvy because he still has a ton of upside, and if Sunday’s start is any indication of things to come, he looks to be headed on a course for re-discovery this season. But as I see it, pitching in the WBC presents too many opportunities for failure.
Of course, there’s a chance Severino lights the tournament ablaze and a star is born, but pitching against premier players from around the globe is a lot harder than pitching against players headed back to Minor League camp, as he did the last weekend.