A gem throws in Scranton

| 10 Jul 2015 | 11:36

SCRANTON - Just down the road on Route 84 stands the future of the New York Yankees.

Luis Severino patrols the Minor League mound in Scranton for the Triple A affiliate of the Yankees the way George Foreman or Muhammed Ali menaced opponents in the ring during their heyday.

The winningest team in sports has only had three homegrown starting pitchers in an All Star Game over the last 35 years: Ron Guidry, Phil Hughes and Andy Pettite.

Hughes, the last of the accomplished starters the Yankees have produced, was beset by injuries.

Like Hughes, Severino has mowed through minor league batters.

At his best, hitting against Severino is unfair in the way that Guidry made life unfair for batters in 1977 when he won the Cy Young Award with his magical season and 1.74 ERA.

Batters are hitting .196 against him in Triple A this year and he sports a 1.99 ERA.

Severino dials up his fastball to 97 miles per hour, will throw a sinking and fading changeup at 86 to 87 miles per hour and can hurl a hard-biting slider at varying speeds.

At the age of 21, Severino has dominated every level of the minor leagues thus far.

But what sets him apart from other pitchers who post flashy stats at the minor league level is his command, his poise, his demeanor and his determination. He exudes confidence on the mound.

After throwing against the Toronto Blue Jays affiliate on Tuesday, Severino allowed one run in four innings and struck out four but he was unhappy.

“My fastball command wasn't there,” he said.

He fell behind on too many hitters, he said. He threw too many pitches. He thought he hung his breaking ball.

One reporter who interviewed him after the game asked if a lot the calls that went against him were “close calls.”

Yes, Severino said, but “that's part of the game.”

That is a wise, cool and sober assessment from a 21-year-old.

Make no mistake. Severino is an assassin.

He didn't have his best command on Tuesday and he knows it. It happens to all of the greats.

But Severino was still a force, causing batters to foul off pitches all night as they were kept off balance.

After the game, Severino sat still at his chair contemplatively in a meditative-like pose, settling down after a game of throwing hard.

He came out firing bullets at 93 miles per hour to 95 miles per hour with a smooth, fluid delivery. You almost felt bad for the hitters as they stared or swung helplessly at times.

Severino works like a locomotive and even the umpire seemed confused by the speed at which the ball zoomed by and slammed into the catcher's mitt.

Aside from his blazing fastball, his two best pitches of the night were an 86 mile per hour sinking changeup which induced a swinging strikeout by Blue Jays top hitting prospect Treat Turner to end the fourth inning, and a nasty slider in the dirt to get a strikeout in the second.

He got two other strikeouts on fastballs, one looking and one swinging.

After the game, Severino said he works hardest on his command.

In spring training this year, he worked a little with Mariano Rivera, who told him to work on his slider and throw it like a fastball. That work was paying off on Tuesday.

A native of the Dominican Republic and the son of a farmer who had four children, Severino knows about work.

He also looked up to Dominican Republic native Pedro Martinez growing up.

Martinez, a hero in his home country, arguably pitched the greatest season in baseball history 15 years ago and is one of the best pitchers ever.

Severino has watched a lot of video of the pitcher.

“He's aggressive (with) all of the pitches. He's not afraid to throw to any batter,” Severino said.

The Yankees know they are sitting on special and know they will need him.

He is the crown jewel of the farm system.

Unless General Manager Brian Cashman's brain short circuits, he will see that Severino is groomed for the right moment to call Severino to help the team.

Cashman was in Scranton on Tuesday to watch Severino pitch and one assumes – to keep an eye on his other young talent as the trading deadline looms and teams come knocking on the Yankees door.

One of the team's more touted hitting prospects is Robert Refsnyder, a second baseman who hits well but has posted a lot of errors this season.

Refsnyder ripped a home run to left field in the first inning and in the third inning did his best Derek Jeter impression running to get a ball hit up the middle by Turner on an infield hit.and doing a fade away jump to just miss getting him at first.

The Scranton team's most talented hitter Is 23-year-old Aaron Judge, a 6'7 power hitting outfielder who resembles a gladiator. He had two hard hit outs in the game, and will be the outfielder of the future for the Yankees. He seems to be another year away from the majors.

The game also featured Tony Gwynn Jr., who is playing for the Jays Triple A squad after a journeyman career in the big leagues. He is the son of the late Tony Gwynn, one of the greatest hitters who ever lived. He had one hit in the game.

After the game, Cashman said Severino “has a big arm. He's obviously moving himself right through the system.”

“All he's done is get outs.”
Cashman called Severino a “future major leaguer,” but for now said he wants him to “continue his journey here first.”

With pitcher Ivan Nova recently returned to the big league team after undergoing Tommy John surgery, the Yankees rotation is full for the time being.

“Thankfully, we don't have any needs,” Cashman said.

During the second inning, the Scranton team's crowd engagement people put season ticketholder Rob Grossman on the big screen and asked him about Severino.

It's like watching “the next Mariano Rivera,” he said.