Yankees’ pitching plans change after Luis Severino tests positive for COVID-19

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 10: Luis Severino #40 of the New York Yankees pitches against the Chicago Cubs during the second inning at Yankee Stadium on June 10, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 10: Luis Severino #40 of the New York Yankees pitches against the Chicago Cubs during the second inning at Yankee Stadium on June 10, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images) /
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The hits to the New York Yankees pitching staff keep coming. The good news is that they’ve admirably weathered the storm. The bad news? They really can’t absorb much more of this entering the toughest stretch of their first-half schedule.

The Yankees announced Thursday that Luis Severino was placed on the COVID-19 list. In his place, Clarke Schmidt will start the series finale against the Tampa Bay Rays. The corresponding roster move featured reliever Ryan Weber joining the 26-man roster from Triple-A Scranton.

With New York going for the sweep of Tampa on Thursday night, this isn’t the biggest deal in the world. But the Yankees pitching staff continues to get thinner, and Severino’s 2.80 ERA, 3.45 FIP, 1.03 WHIP and 71 strikeouts in 11 starts (61 innings) will be sorely missed.

You have to wonder if they’ll bring up JP Sears in the near future, because there’s no reason to put more of a strain on the current cast of relievers with more bullpen games than necessary.

Sears started on Wednesday night and got knocked around across four innings of work, so Weber, who has 63 games of MLB experience, was the next logical choice.

It’s not what you want, but the Yankees have made it work up until this point. This will without a doubt be another test with the Blue Jays up next, though the Yankees won’t have to deal with a vacancy in the rotation again until their next series with the Rays early next week.

Yankees place Luis Severino on COVID-19 list and promote Ryan Weber

There are a couple of silver linings here. First, it’s Schmidt finally getting a start! The starting pitcher has just two of those out of his 16 career MLB games, though he’s been successful in a relief role this far in 2022. He was long viewed as a future mid-rotation starter, which could be helpful to find out about with the Yankees potentially losing some arms after this year.

Secondly, Weber, despite a largely bad MLB career, has been rock solid for the RailRiders, logging a 2.95 ERA and 1.08 WHIP with 15 strikeouts in 21.1 innings of work. Nothing special, but such output suggests he can handle some mop-up/garbage innings if need be.

And lastly, is it the worst thing in the world that Severino will get a little break in action? It’s obviously unfortunate that he’s on the shelf with an illness, but the right-hander has pitched in just 18 total innings from 2019-2021 before entering this season. He’s already at 61 this year and it’s unclear how far he’ll be able to go given his extensive injury history over that span.

Just about every starter will need a bit of a reprieve, but none more urgently than Severino due to his situation. Let’s imagine this to be a “workload management” IL stint of sorts. We’ve seen this before.