We are well past the point of reason. The Yankees keep falling, keep getting back up and keep falling back down again. That’s the way it happened with Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez. With Luke Voit and Aaron Hicks. With CC Sabathia and Edwin Encarnacion.
And that’s the way it happened with Luis Severino and Dellin Betances. Except that — and at first telling, this sounds like the kind of mean-spirited joke that can get people banned from social media — it happened yet again to Betances during his 2019 debut on Sunday in Toronto, in which the relief pitcher pitched to two batters, struck out two batters — and somehow suffered a partial tear of his Achilles tendon doing a little jig of celebration upon fanning Brandon Drury.
You couldn’t even make up stuff like this, just as you couldn’t make it up that the Yankees are tied for the best record in baseball with the Astros at 99-53 despite having 30 players make trips — some multiple trips — to the injured list. It makes no sense.
To fracture the phrase invented by Mariano Duncan during the 1996 world championship season, the 2019 Yankees play today, they win today, they get hurt today. Das it! The Yankees get hurt in spring training (Betances and Luis Severino), they get hurt in the U.S. (many), get hurt in Canada (Betances), they get hurt in the United Kingdom (Voit), and they get hurt in fall training (Betances, again).
One goes down, another pops up. In this case, though, as Betances went down again, Severino got back up. He started and went four encouraging innings in Tuesday’s 8-0 victory over the Angels in The Bronx. It was the right-hander’s first appearance on a major league mound in approximately 11 months, since he started and was pounded in the Yankees’ Game 3 ALDS 16-1 defeat to the Red Sox last Oct. 8.
There had been rotator cuff issues in the spring followed by lat issues that developed during Severino’s rehab, both in early April and again in late June. The Yankees, vulnerable in their rotation if vulnerable anywhere, went through the season without their titular ace — the man chosen to start wild-card games in both 2017 and 2018 — throwing a pitch.
Tuesday, he threw 67 of them through four shutout innings in which he hit 98 mph on his four-seamer, got seven swings-and-misses, struck out four and walked two while allowing just a pair of singles. He had command of his fastball and slider while mixing in the changeup. Best of all, there were no accidents on the mound … no injuries … at least none that could be identified by night’s end.
“It was exciting being back on the mound,” said the 25-year-old, who had a pair of previous rehab starts at Double-A plus one at Triple-A. “I felt very comfortable out there. I’ve been looking forward to this since spring training. It’s been a long road back.”
If Severino avoids setbacks over the final 10 days of the season — easier said than done in the current Yankees universe — he will play a prominent role in the postseason. He could become a full-fledged starter (whatever that truly means in the 2019 definition of the role) in a rotation that will feature James Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka if he can gain some additional length through two more regular-season appearances. Or maybe he could become an ersatz opener, sent out to throw flames for four or five innings. Whatever, he will be an important invitee to the post-season jamboree.
The same cannot be said for Betances, who had been set to join Zack Britton, Adam Ottavino and Tommy Kahnle to form a platinum-plated bullpen bridge to closer Aroldis Chapman. The Yankees had Betances in their back pocket all season, hopeful and prepared to unleash him at the year’s most important time. He was going to be a weapon, all right. Now, not.
Severino would come back, so would Betances, so would Stanton and the Yankees would go into the postseason with a look pretty darn different from the ones that created so much success throughout the season. Best laid plans and all that.
“Fluke,” is what Aaron Boone called the injury to Betances.
Typical, is more like it, as the manager and his team turn toward attempting to integrate Stanton into the picture for the first time since he left the lineup with a knee injury on June 25. The outfielder has played nine games. He’s had 38 plate appearances on the year. And the Yankees expect him to be a player for the postseason.
We’ll see. We’ll see if Stanton, who will be activated either Wednesday or Thursday, can survive fall training.