Mariano Rivera’s plaque is the newest addition to Yankee Stadium’s Monument Park, where the inscription credits his “signature cut fastball” with leading to 652 saves, the major league record.
Yankees Manager Joe Girardi, Rivera’s former teammate, described Rivera as a master craftsman. That is a level of aptitude nearly impossible to obtain in baseball, in which chaos theory runs rampant.
“He knew how to use one pitch and used it better than anyone ever did,” Girardi said before the Yankees dedicated Rivera’s plaque in a pregame celebration Sunday. “I found it truly amazing.”
Girardi cannot yet say the same about Luis Severino, his starter for Sunday’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays. After his last start, on Aug. 9, Severino was optioned to Class AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre with a 1-7 record and a 6.42 E.R.A.
Girardi was not looking for Rivera-style expertise from Severino, but for a scaled-down, simple command of the basics of pitching.
“Really, it comes down to what it does for every pitcher: Execute one pitch at a time,” Girardi said.
Severino fell precipitously short of Rivera’s standard and Girardi’s expectations. He was pulled in the fourth inning and charged with seven runs in the Yankees’ 12-3 loss to the Rays. Minutes after the game ended, the Yankees announced that Severino had again been sent down to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
“My confidence is good,” Severino said. “I have to work more. I’m going to work on my changeup, work on my fastball command, and I’ll be good.”
Severino’s time in the minors was supposed to have allowed him time to refine those pitches. But after Nathan Eovaldi was placed on the 15-day disabled list Friday, Severino was hurriedly recalled.
As Girardi watched Severino on Sunday, he saw not a young Rivera but similarities to the difficulties Michael Pineda has faced this year — a lot of strikeouts, matched by a high ratio of runs allowed.
“He had seven strikeouts in three and two-thirds innings, I believe, so the stuff is there, but he made some mistakes,” Girardi said. “We want him to go work it out, because we think he can be a really good starter at this level.”
The fourth inning was particularly demoralizing for Severino. After he struck out Brad Miller leading off, the Rays collected five straight hits, highlighted by Corey Dickerson’s three-run homer. Two additional runs were branded on Severino’s line as Evan Longoria, facing Yankees reliever Luis Cessa, lofted a three-run double into the right-center-field gap.
Severino’s disappointing afternoon offset Aaron Judge’s home run in the third inning. Judge, who homered in his first career at-bat Saturday, became the second Yankee to hit a home run in his first two major league games. Joe Lefebvre accomplished the feat in May 1980.
The rookie Gary Sanchez also hit his second career homer, a two-run rope in the fourth inning.
Girardi said earlier Sunday that he hoped the past few days at Yankee Stadium, which included a salute to the 1996 World Series championship team, would have an enduring effect on his lineup, which has suddenly been infused with youth after Alex Rodriguez’s retirement on Friday.
“You think about when you want your young players to come up, and I think it’s really a good time for them to be here, just because of who’s in the house and who’s been here and how these players were the young players that grew into veterans that led and did a lot of great things,” Girardi said.
Severino was able to speak briefly with Rivera before his outing. Echoing Girardi, Rivera told him to not be overly aggressive on the mound and to take each pitch one at a time. The advice should now have plenty of time to soak in, as Severino heads back down to the minors as an apprentice, looking to polish his craft.
The Yankees announced their rotation for the approaching series at Toronto. CHAD GREEN will start Monday, followed by MICHAEL PINEDA and C. C. SABATHIA. … BRETT GARDNER did not play for the second straight game after being hit by a pitch on his right ankle Friday. Gardner said that he was still “pretty stiff” but that he hoped to play on Monday.