Posted on February 25, 2020, by Bryan Zarpentine

New York Yankees Luis Severino
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For the New York Yankees, it looks like deja vu all over again. Their 2019 season was plagued by injuries and now their 2020 season is starting out in a similar fashion. The club announced on Tuesday that doctors have recommended that starter Luis Severino undergo Tommy John surgery because of a partial tear of the ulnar-collateral ligament in his elbow. The surgery will keep Severino out for the entire 2020 season and perhaps the early part of the 2021 season. It’s also an early blow to the Yankees, who were hoping Severino would help lead their rotation this year.

The 26-year-old Severino complained of elbow discomfort during the offseason. But scans taken in both December and January were negative. The discomfort returned when Severino began his throwing program at the start of spring training and was quickly sent back to New York for more tests. This time, the scans revealed a partial tear of the UCL, prompting doctors to recommend Tommy John surgery.

“Sevy has agreed and acknowledged that Tommy John is necessary,” Yankees GM Cashman said Tuesday. “The plan is to have it done as soon as possible.”

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This will turn into the second straight lost season for Severino in the second year of a four-year, $40 million extension he signed just over a year ago. A rotator cuff problem sidelined him during the early part of 2019 and a lat strain further delayed his return after that. He ended up making just three starts for the Yankees last year, all coming in late September. Severino pitched just 12 innings over those three starts during the regular season and then made two starts during the postseason, covering 8.1 innings.

The injury to Severino is already the second setback for the New York starting rotation this year. Lefty James Paxton is recovering from surgery on his lower back. He’s expected to miss at least the first month of the regular season. Domingo German, who would have been useful rotation depth in the wake of the injuries to Severino and Paxton, is unavailable for the first 63 games of the season because of a suspension.

If there’s a silver lining for the Yankees, it’s that they weren’t counting on Severino to be their ace this season. That distinction will go to Gerrit Cole, who signed a nine-year, $324 million contract to come to the Bronx over the winter. He will be followed by veterans Masahiro Tanaka and JA Happ. The Yankees kicked the tires on trading Happ this past offseason but will no doubt be grateful they decided to keep him.

Nevertheless, the Yankees now have two openings in their rotation to fill, at least until Paxton can return. Lefty Jordan Montgomery looks like a safe bet to fill a spot if he can just prove he’s healthy after only returning from Tommy John last September. Jonathan Loaisiga also has a chance after making a positive impression last season. Youngsters Michael King and Deivi Garcia may also get a realistic chance to crack the rotation at the start of the season.

While the Yankees have some promising arms waiting in the wings, there’s no sugar-coating the loss of Severino. He posted a 2.98 ERA in 2017 and was a 19-game winner in 2018. At his best, he’s a bonafide ace and could have been a lethal no. 2 starter behind Cole. The Yankees still have a chance to have a strong rotation in 2020 and are still World Series contenders. However, losing Severino for the rest of the season is a serious setback and a major loss that they will have to find a way to overcome.

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