NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Luis Severino is viewed by many as the Yankees' ace, but he's first to admit he didn't pitch like one during the second half and playoffs last season.
"I had a great first half and then all that happened," Severino said Monday from the team's spring training facility in Tampa, Florida. "I know it's just struggle for a little bit. I know the pitcher I am, I know I can come back. I know I can pitch well again."
He better, because the stakes are just too high these days to show up for only half a season.
Severino went 13-2 with a 1.98 ERA in his first 18 starts, completing that run with 6 2/3 innings of two-hit, scoreless ball in the Bombers' 11-1 victory over the Red Sox on July 1 at Yankee Stadium. Though he got a win and a no-decision in his next two starts, he allowed seven earned runs in just a combined 10 innings.
It was a sign of things to come.
The hard-throwing right-hander, who will turn 25 on Feb. 20, went 5-6 with a 5.57 ERA over his final 12 regular season starts and then threw 87 pitches in just four innings of the Yankees' 7-2 win over Oakland in the wild card game before getting shelled over just three frames in New York's 16-1 loss to Boston in Game 3 of the Division Series.
Needless to say, the pitcher who started the season and was brilliant through June was not the same guy who ended up walking off the mound in shame in October.
The question is, why?
Some have suggested Severino was tipping his pitches during the playoffs, something that could at least partially explain his second-half swoon, but he said fatigue was also a factor.
"Of course I changed a little bit my workout, I think I maybe get a little bit tired towards the end," Severino said. "I worked on my mechanics, maybe I am not sure. Maybe I was tipping some pitches or not, I will make sure that this year, none of that will happen."
The tipping pitches issue has dogged Severino this offseason, and so far he has been at a loss to explain how he could have done it.
"I am still not sure," Severino said. "I don't know who it was, but someone sent me a video of (Red Sox center fielder) Jackie Bradley (Jr.) talking about fastball or stuff like that. I am looking forward to see and if I see something I will definitely change it."
In the incident Severino was referring to, Bradley is seen on video during that Game 3 shellacking saying "fastball" behind his glove with Brock Holt at the plate. Severino then followed with an upper 90s heater.
The good news is the Yankees' rotation is slightly better than last season due to the November trade with Seattle that brought power lefty James Paxton to the Bronx and the re-signing of veteran southpaw J.A. Happ, who pitched brilliantly for the Bombers after he was acquired at the trade deadline from Toronto.
Severino and the two lefties will be complemented by veterans Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia, though the Yankees could add some insurance for the soon-to-be-39-year-old Sabathia, who is coming off an offseason heart procedure and has been pitching on a balky knee for years.
"I am excited about it. We have a great rotation," Severino said. "We have Paxton, going to be great for us. CC is back. He is like a mentor for me and the guys. Any questions I have or we have, he is there to answer for us. I am really excited to be back with those guys."
With the Yankees expected to seriously challenge the world champion Red Sox for the AL East crown in 2019, there's two things they likely cannot afford -- injuries in the rotation and Severino not performing like its leader.
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