Yankees Manage Workloads of Nestor Cortes and Luis Severino

In a season in which almost everything has gone right for the Yankees, their rotation was leading the American League in the ERA and wins over replacement through Tuesday. Keeping it that way, as the season grinds along, will involve careful workload management for two of the team’s brightest stars: Nestor Cortes and Luis Severino.

Cortes, 27, has never reached 100 innings in a major league season (though he surpassed the mark multiple times in the lower leagues). A left-hander, he’s already at 79 this season, establishing himself as an unlikely Ace and All-Star candidate with a recent skid that has seen his ERA rise to 2.51, a full run higher than it was on June 2.

Severino, meanwhile, is scheduled to start on Thursday when the Yankees make a one-game stop in Houston. He is at 72 innings this season after tossing a total of 29⅔ between the majors and minors over the past three years, the result of Tommy John surgery and setbacks during rehab. A 28-year-old right-hander, he has pitched as many as 193 innings in a single season, but has not enjoyed a full campaign since 2018.

He has a 3.38 ERA over his first 13 starts this season.

There have been no innings limits or guidelines for Cortes or Severino – thus avoiding the public countdown that accompanies Joba Chamberlain and his so-called Joba Rules – but the Yankees are thinking ahead when it comes to how they can keep their starters safe as their workload. reaches unfamiliar language.

“Eye test stuff, listening to them, and then the things you’re able to measure,” manager Aaron Boone said when asked how he screens for fatigue as his pitchers brace for the long season. Boone added that strength and conditioning are factors, as is feedback from his pitchers. “Kind of a little bit of everything,” he continued. “Being a little proactive, but also very much listening to where they are physically by measurables and listening to them, too.”

Occasionally mixing in a sixth starter is one of the ways to give the other five starters some extra rest. The Yankees did that to great effect Tuesday when left-hander JP Sears was called up to start against Oakland. He threw five and two-thirds scoreless innings, earning the win as the Yankees beat the Athletics, 2-1.

Sears’ outing gave the Yankees cover amid this stretch of 20 days, but Boone also said that using an extra starter corresponded with the club’s “trying to think a little bit bigger picture.”

That Sears, a 26-year-old rookie, has yet to allow a run in 12 innings has made relaying him easier.

After this 20-day stretch, some days will allow the Yankees to use their rest on the starters, which should require less use of the Sears, who were optioned back to Class AAA after Tuesday’s game. But Boone noted that Severino has already received as many starts between eight days.

The Yankees should be able to realign their rotation next month’s All-Star break, though their second-half schedule begins with a doubleheader in Houston on July 21. There is also a possibility that Cortes will be pitched in the All-Star Game, though. Such appearances are typically brief.

Yet another way to mitigate workload concerns is for Cortes and Severino to lean on other members of the rotation. Gerrit Cole is the staff’s workhorse – he led the Yankees in innings pitched in 2020 and 2021, and is doing so again this season – and Jordan Montgomery and Jameson Taillon are past major injuries that put a similar situation in the Yankees last year.

Taillon didn’t pitch in 2020 and tallied only 37⅓ big ​​league innings in 2019 after undergoing his second Tommy John operation. Montgomery totaled 75⅓ big ​​league innings from 2018 to 2020 because of his own Tommy John surgery and the shortened 2020 season. This season, however, both pitchers are more than halfway toward their 2021 innings totals.

“I think I’m far enough removed from TJ now where there really is no limit anymore. I threw 160 last year, so I can really handle almost anything, “said the left-handed Montgomery before offering ways he and others could help Cortes and Severino. “They could arrange the rotation to where I was, Gerrit and Jameson go on five days more often, and they would get an extra day. Or maybe kind of let us go a little longer and kind of use the bullpen more strategically for them. “

Taillon, in particular, provided Boone with a blueprint after he came back in 2021 missing the entire 2020 season. The right-hander didn’t want to put a cap on what he could do in his first year back. He missed a few weeks with an ankle tendon injury, but Taillon eventually threw 144 innings.

Now Boone is comfortable with a similar approach.

“Just be smart about it,” Boone said when told Cortes wanted more than 150 innings. “It will kind of declare itself as we move.”

Then, referring to Taillon, he said: “I’ve been going back to Jamo last year. He was a guy that we were aware of, paying attention to, and he did great and responded and probably went further than we would have expected.

“So I don’t want to put any limitation on that, but also being very aware and watching.”

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