In a season through which nearly all the pieces has gone right for the Yankees, their rotation was leading the American League in E.R.A. and wins above alternative through Tuesday. Keeping it that way, because the season grinds along, will involve careful workload management for 2 of the team’s brightest stars: Nestor Cortes and Luis Severino.
Cortes, 27, has never reached 100 innings in a serious league season (though he surpassed the mark multiple times in lower leagues). A left-hander, he’s already at 79 this season, establishing himself as an unlikely ace and All-Star candidate despite a recent skid that has seen his E.R.A. rise to 2.51, a full run higher than it was on June 2.
Severino, meanwhile, is scheduled to start out on Thursday when the Yankees make a one-game stop in Houston. He’s at 72 innings this season after tossing a complete of 29⅔ between the majors and minors over the previous three years, the results of Tommy John surgery and setbacks during rehab. A 28-year-old right-hander, he has pitched as many as 193⅓ innings in a single season, but has not enjoyed a full campaign since 2018.
He has a 3.38 E.R.A. over his first 13 starts this season.
No innings limits or guidelines have been revealed for Cortes or Severino — thus avoiding the general public countdown that accompanied Joba Chamberlain and his so-called Joba Rules — however the Yankees are considering ahead in terms of how they’ll keep their starters protected as their workload reaches unfamiliar territory.
“Eye test stuff, listening to them, after which the stuff you’re in a position 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 aspects, as is feedback from his pitchers. “Sort of just a little little bit of all the pieces,” he continued. “Being just a little proactive, but additionally very much listening to where they’re at physically by measurables and by listening to them, too.”
Occasionally mixing in a sixth starter is one in every of the ways to present the opposite five starters some extra rest. The Yankees did that to great effect on Tuesday when the left-hander J.P. Sears was called up to start out against Oakland. He threw five and two-thirds scoreless innings, earning the win as the Yankees beat the Athletics, 2-1.
Sears’s outing gave the Yankees cover amid this stretch of 20 games in 20 days, but Boone also said that using an additional starter corresponded with the club’s “attempting to think just a little bit big picture.”
That Sears, a 26-year-old rookie, has yet to permit a run in 12⅔ innings has made counting on him easier.
After this 20-day stretch, some days off will allow the Yankees to make use of their starters on extra rest, which should require less use of Sears, who was optioned back to Class AAA after Tuesday’s game. But Boone noted that Severino has already received as many as eight days between starts.
The Yankees should give you the chance to realign their rotation after next month’s All-Star break, though their second-half schedule begins with a doubleheader in Houston on July 21. There’s also a likelihood that Cortes may have pitched within the All-Star Game, though such appearances are typically transient.
Yet one more option to mitigate workload concerns for Cortes and Severino is 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 the Yankees in an analogous situation last 12 months.
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 due to his own Tommy John surgery and the shortened 2020 season. This season, nonetheless, each pitchers are greater than halfway toward their 2021 innings totals.
“I feel I’m far enough faraway from T.J. now where there’s really no limit anymore. I threw 160 last 12 months, so I actually can handle almost anything,” the left-handed Montgomery said before offering ways he and others may also help Cortes and Severino. “They may arrange the rotation to where me, Gerrit and Jameson go on five days more often, and so they get an additional day. Or possibly type of allow us to go just a little longer and type of use the bullpen more strategically for them.”
Taillon, particularly, provided Boone with a blueprint after he got here back in 2021 from missing all the 2020 season. The precise-hander didn’t want to put a cap on what he could do in his first 12 months back. He missed a number of weeks with an ankle tendon injury, but Taillon ultimately threw 144⅓ innings.
Now Boone is comfortable with an analogous approach.
“Just be smart about it,” Boone said when told Cortes desired to exceed 150 innings. “It is going to type of declare itself as we move.”
Then, referring to Taillon, he said: “I keep going back to Jamo last 12 months. He was a man that we were aware of, listening to, and he did great and responded and doubtless went further than we’d have expected.
“So I don’t need to put any limitation on that, but additionally being very aware and watching.”