Yankees activate Luis Severino from IL, release Sal Romano
New York Yankees pitcher Luis Severino Alexander Lewis / MyCentralJersey via Imagn Content Services, LLC

The Yankees announced Monday that they reinstated right-hander Luis Severino from the 60-day injured list and cleared a spot on the 40-man roster by releasing right-hander Sal Romano.

Severino, 27, will make his return to a big league mound for the first time in nearly two years. His last regular-season appearance for the Yankees came back on Sept. 28, 2019. He hasn’t pitched in a major league game since his Game 3 start against the Astros in that year’s ALCS. Severino underwent Tommy John surgery in February 2020, and his return has been delayed in 2021 by setbacks throughout the recovery process, namely some shoulder and groin injuries.

Even including Severino’s postseason work in 2019, he’s pitched just 20 1/3 innings for the Yankees since Opening Day of that season. He missed nearly the entire 2019 campaign due to shoulder and lat strains, and his 2020 season was wiped out entirely by the aforementioned Tommy John procedure. It’s obviously not how the Yankees drew things up when signing Severino to a four-year, $40M contract extension in February 2019. That contract spans the 2019-22 campaigns and gives the Yankees a $15M club option for a fifth season.

Manager Aaron Boone suggested over the weekend that Severino’s return was imminent. However, the two-time All-Star and 2017 third-place finisher in American League Cy Young voting won’t return to the Yankees rotation this year. Severino did not have time to build up to the point where he could work as a starter, so he’ll work as a reliever down the stretch, perhaps being called upon for two- or three-inning stints.

Moving forward, there’s little doubt the Yankees hope to reinstall Severino near the top of their rotation. It’s been three years since we last saw a full season from Severino, but he’s among the best starters in the American League when healthy. From 2017-18, Severino logged 384 2/3 innings with a 3.18 ERA, an impressive 28.8 percent strikeout rate and a similarly excellent 6.2 percent walk rate.

Assuming Severino’s injury troubles are behind him, he’ll join Gerrit Cole, Jordan Montgomery, Jameson Taillon and Domingo German as the top rotation options for the Yankees in 2022. Prospects Deivi Garcia, Clarke Schmidt, Luis Medina and Ken Waldichuk are among the top options in the upper minors, and it’s of course possible that the Yankees will make an offseason move or two in an effort to deepen and strengthen their collection of MLB-caliber arms.

For Romano, Monday’s release marks the latest in a dizzying stretch of transactions this season. Since beginning the year with the Reds organization — where he was originally drafted and developed — his transaction log reads as followed:

  • May 14: Designated for assignment by Reds
  • May 17: Elects free agency
  • May 22: Signs minor league deal with Yankees
  • July 22: Selected to MLB roster by Yankees
  • July 31: Designated for assignment by Yankees
  • Aug. 3: Claimed off waivers by Brewers
  • Aug. 10: Designated for assignment by Brewers
  • Aug. 13: Elects free agency
  • Aug. 14: Signs minor league deal with Yankees
  • Sept. 9: Selected to MLB roster by Yankees
  • Sept. 10: Designated for assignment by Yankees
  • Sept. 13: Elects free agency
  • Sept. 14: Signs Major League deal with Yankees
  • Sept. 17: Placed on 10-day injured list (sprained finger)
  • Sept. 20: Released by Yankees

Romano has allowed a pair of runs in 3 1/3 innings with the Yankees this year and has been tagged for a 6.12 ERA on the season overall between Cincinnati, Milwaukee and New York. Romano has had a nice season in Triple-A and had some success as a rookie with Cincinnati back in 2017, but it’s begun to feel as though he’s spent nearly as much time in DFA limbo and minor league free agency this season as he has as an active member of an organization’s MLB or Triple-A roster. He’s gotten service time and big league pay for all of the time spent in the majors and in DFA limbo, but the manner in which he’s been pinballed on and off MLB rosters has to be nevertheless frustrating.

Given that Romano was on the injured list at the time of his release, it remains to be seen whether he can get back to good enough health to return to the mound in 2021. If not, he’ll look for a more stable opportunity in free agency this winter.

This article first appeared on MLB Trade Rumors and was syndicated with permission.

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