A shoulder problem in spring training last year and a lat issue during the rehab process limited the talented right-hander to three games, a dozen regular-season innings and two postseason starts.
With the offseason addition of Gerrit Cole, there was no question who the Yankees’ ace was when spring training opened in February. Teams don’t bestow nine-year deals for $324 million on anyone other than the best in the business, which Cole is.
The way Severino, 26, looked at the Cole addition was that he had a fellow right-hander to learn from. But following the Feb. 25 announcement that Severino required Tommy John surgery on the right elbow and camps being shuttered on March 12 due to the coronavirus, the classroom was closed.
“For me, even though it wasn’t for a long time, we were together for a couple of days in spring training and I already started learning from him. He’s a great pitcher. He’s got a lot of stuff in his mind that I can learn from,’’ Severino told The Post in an email. “I’ll be excited when I come back. I’ll be excited to be in New York next to all the guys on our staff that have been successful for a lot of years. I know it’s going to be a lot of fun when I come back.’’
Even if there is a 2020 season, Severino won’t be ready to pitch at least until next June and that might be too early.
When Severino, who signed a four-year deal for $40 million before the start of the 2019 season, returns in 2021, he might not see some familiar rotation faces. James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka and J.A. Happ will be free agents this coming winter and jump into an arena that likely will be financially impacted by a shortened 2020 season.
Asked how difficult it has been knowing he won’t be ready until next year, Severino put his situation into perspective.
“Of course it’s frustrating, but this year has been a frustrating year for everybody. So right now I’m just focused on trying to be healthy for next year,’’ Severino wrote. “With everything that’s been going on there hasn’t been any baseball. But right now there are more things to worry about than playing baseball, you know, like the health of everyone and staying safe. I’m just focused on the day-to-day.’’
And that means working out at Steinbrenner Field.
“I’ve been down in Tampa since the day after I had my surgery. I do arm bike, dumbbell exercises, and I just follow the routine that [trainers] Timmy [Lentych] and Alfonso [Malaguti] plan out for me. I spend an hour and half with them in the trainer’s room before I move into the gym, every day, five days a week,” Severino explained. “Things have been progressing well. I’ve been making steady progress — lifting, doing exercises. Since three months ago — I think when I first had my surgery — I feel way better. I’m doing everything I need to do right now so that I can start throwing this summer.’’
The return from Tommy John surgery is long and boring compared to the excitement of belonging to a major league rotation, and the only way to stay focused is to look at a very large picture.
“Of course it’s disappointing, but I want to look long-term. I want to be healthy for a long time. So I want to use this year — and last year — to get better, listen to my body,’’ Severino said. “Of course I was mad at that time [of the injuries] but right now I just want to worry about getting healthy again and having a long career.’’
As for the safety of his family, Severino wrote that the coronavirus hasn’t touched members.
“Thank God, nobody. Everyone is healthy,’’ Severino wrote. “Actually, where my mom lives [Las Canitas Sabana De La Mar in the Dominican Republic] there are no cases yet.’’