In a season in which the Yankees were almost doing well, their rotation led the American League in ERA and won more than replacements until Tuesday. Keeping this going throughout the season will require careful workload management of the team’s two brightest stars: Nestor Cortez and Luis Severino.
The 27-year-old Cortez has never hit 100 innings in a major league season (although he has beaten the mark a few times in the minor leagues). Left-handed, this season he is already 79 years old, and he has established himself as unlikely ace and an All-Star candidate despite a recent skid that saw his ERA rise to 2.51, a full run higher than it was on June 2.
Severino, meanwhile, should start Thursday when the Yankees make a one-game stop in Houston. He’s got 72 innings this season after throwing a total of 29 ⅔ between majors and juniors in the previous three years as a result of Tommy John surgery and rehab mishaps. A 28-year-old right-hander, he played 193⅓ innings in a single season but hasn’t played a campaign since 2018.
He has a 3.38 ERA over his first 13 starts this season.
No innings restrictions or guidelines have been revealed for Cortez or Severino – thus avoiding the public countdown that accompanied Joba Chamberlain and his so-called Joba rules – but the Yankees are thinking ahead when it comes to how they can secure the safety of their players in the starting lineup. reaches unfamiliar territory.
“Checking eyesight, listening to them, and then what you can measure,” manager Aaron Boon said when asked how he checks for fatigue as his pitchers gear up for a long season. Boon added that strength and fitness are important factors, as are feedback from his pitchers. “A little of everything,” he continued. “Be a little active, but also listen very carefully to where they are physically, in measurable terms, and also listen to them.”
Sometimes adding a sixth starter is one way to give the other five starters some extra rest. The Yankees did it to great effect on Tuesday when southpaw JP Sears was called up to start against Oakland. He threw five and two-thirds of scoreless innings, earning the win as The Yankees beat the Athletics 2-1..
Sears, a 26-year-old rookie, has been incredible so far. He still has 12 ⅔ innings to run, and Tuesday’s exit covered the Yankees for that 20-game stretch in 20 days. Boone also said that the use of an extra starter was in line with the club “trying to think a little bit bigger”.
On Wednesday, it was Jameson Tylon’s turn to start with an extra day off provided by Sears, and although he wasn’t at his best, he pitched well enough to win (with some help from Aaron Judge’s homers and Giancarlo Stanton). He allowed three runs in five innings to slightly increase his ERA to 3.32 as Yankees beat Five 5-3to complete the sweep of three games.
After that 20-day stretch, a few days off will help the Yankees give their top five starters extra rest, which should require less use of Sears, who returned to the AAA class after Tuesday’s game. Boon noted that Severino had already received a full eight days between starts.
The Yankees should also be able to change their rotation after the All-Star break next month, though their second-half schedule begins with a doubleheader in Houston on July 21. such performances are usually short-lived.
Another way to mitigate workload issues for Cortez and Severino is to lean on other members of the rotation. Gerrit Cole is the workhorse of the staff—he led the Yankees in innings in 2020 and 2021 and is doing so again this season—and Jordan Montgomery and Tylon have endured major injuries that put the Yankees in a similar situation last year.
Tylon did not pitch in 2020 and only hit 37⅓ innings in the big leagues in 2019 after a second Tommy John operation. Montgomery has hit 75 ⅓ innings in the major leagues from 2018 to 2020 due to his own Tommy John surgery and a shortened 2020 season. However, both pitchers are more than halfway to their 2021 innings total this season.
“I think I’m far enough away from TJ now where there really is no limit anymore. I dropped 160 last year, so I can really handle just about anything,” the southpaw Montgomery said, before suggesting how he and others can help Cortez and Severino. “They can arrange a rotation so that me, Gerrit and Jameson go five days more often and they get an extra day. Or maybe let’s go a little more and use the bullpen more strategically for them.”
Tylon, in particular, provided Boone with a plan after he returned in 2021 after missing the entire 2020 season. The right-hander didn’t want to limit what he could do in his first year back. He missed several weeks with an ankle tendon injury, but Tylon ended up throwing 144⅓ innings.
Boone is now comfortable with this approach.
“Just be smarter,” Boone said when told that Cortez wanted to go over 150 innings. “It’s kind of going to make itself known when we move in.”
Then, speaking about Taylone, he said, “I keep coming back to Jamo last year. He was a guy that we knew about, paid attention to, and he did a great job, reacted and probably went further than we expected.
“So I don’t want to put any restrictions on it, but also be very aware and observant.”