Visit with Martinez a game-changer for Severino
The Yankees young right-hander sought help from one of the greats this winter
Luis Severino logged the new number, the new and important number, into his phone and quickly tapped out at a text message. He was texting Pedro Martinez, an icon, so he was nervous and worried about what kind of response, if any, he would receive from the legendary Pedro.
It didn't take very long for Martinez to respond to Severino and agree to work with him during the off-season in the Dominican Republic. A few days after Severino first texted Martinez, he said they met on a mound in Santo Domingo. Severino told reporters he showed up two hours early for the session, just to be safe.
"He told me to throw a few pitches so we could see what was going on," Severino said.
Armed with some advice from Martinez, a smoother Severino went into spring training with the Yankees and won the fourth spot in the starting rotation. In Severino's second start of the season on Thursday, he reminded the Yankees how dynamic he can be by striking out 11 across seven innings in leading them to a 3-2 win over the Rays. Severino's slider was superb, his fastball command was improved and he also incorporated his change up into the mix.
After the game, Martinez tweeted about his pupil.
"Luis Severino was great today, great slider, attacking the strike zone!," Martinez tweeted. "And I loved his tempo on the mound tonight! So proud of this kid."
When Pedro speaks, Severino and, really, any other pitcher should listen and listen closely. Severino does. Severino is forever thankful that Hector Gomez, a family friend, gave him Martinez's number and suggested that he contact the Hall of Fame pitcher.
In Martinez's first tutorial with Severino, he honed in on the same mechanical issue that Larry Rothschild, the Yankees' pitching coach, had mentioned to Severino. When Severino lowered his hands to his waist in his delivery, he neglected to keep them close to his belt. Because Severino was so intent on getting additional power behind his pitches, he would end up pushing his hands several inches away from his body. That would cause him to arch his back and would leave him out of synch as he threw the pitch, often releasing the ball too early.
"Just keep your hands closer to your body," Martinez told Severino.
Severino worked with Martinez about five times in the off-season and still texts him. Although Martinez had an amazing change up, Severino, who is refining his change up, said they didn't discuss the intricacies of that pitch. Through a spokesperson, Martinez declined an interview request to discuss Severino, indicating he would rather let Severino do the talking.
With a starting rotation that is filled with uncertainty, the Yankees were thrilled by what Severino did against the Rays. If Severino can develop into the pitcher the Yankees thought he was going to be, meaning a front-end of the rotation starter, that would give them a major boost, especially now that top prospect James Kaprielian will undergo Tommy John surgery.
For Severino, consistency is imperative. He needs to build on Thursday's performance and continue to give the Yankees productive outings. The best starters are the reliable starters, the pitchers who are dependable, not erratic, start after start. Severino doesn't need to speak to Pedro to know that.