The start to Yankees RHP Luis Severino's 2018 season was exactly what the pinstripes wanted to see. But after the All-Star break, the locomotive that steamrolled through its opponents every fifth day suddenly fell off its tracks.
Severino owned a 2.31 ERA heading into the break, and emerged an entirely different pitcher -- or at least one that was giving up hits and runs left and right. He would end the second half with a 5.57 ERA and leave manager Aaron Boone praying for some sort of resurrection in the postseason.
A glimpse of hope came in the AL Wild Card Game, where Severino lasted four innings allowing no runs on two hits and four walks while striking out seven. The Red Sox, then, came to the Bronx for Game 3 of the ALDS on their heels after the Yankees evened the series at one game apiece.
Severino couldn't keep their backs up against the wall.
Six runs came across on seven hits through three innings, as the Red Sox humiliated the Yanks in front of a sold-out, astonished Yankee Stadium crowd that couldn't believe what they were watching.
So how did Severino go from Cy Young hopeful to a frustrated youngster trying to find his way on the rubber again? Some thought it was fatigue, having pitched a career-high 191.1 innings in the regular season. But when video surfaced of Red Sox CF Jackie Bradley Jr. mouthing "fastball" during one of Severino's pitches from that game, the idea he was tipping his pitches was brought up.
Well, Severino doesn't know for sure if that is the case.
"Maybe," he told The Post's Dan Martin outside the Yankees minor-league complex on Monday when asked about tipping his pitches. "I'm not sure, but maybe I was tipping my pitches. I'll make sure this year none of that happens."
Severino admitted seeing the video after someone had sent it to him, but he needs to start working with his coaches again to see if that was actually the reason the Red Sox had his number.
"I looked a little bit and didn't find [anything] consistent," he said. "I will keep looking and talk to the Yankees and see what they say."
As he noted, the 24-year-old Severino will be working diligently to replicate the first half of 2018 and leave the woeful second half in the rearview. This isn't his first time struggling, though, which is why he is so confident he'll be able to bounce back.
"It was tough," Severino admitted about his second half. "I had a great first half and then all that happened. I just struggled a little bit. I know the pitcher I am. I know I'll come back and pitch well again."
The Yankees certainly hope that's the case, as there is still hope the young flamethrower can develop into the franchise's ace. His top competition for that role last season was Masahiro Tanaka, but GM Brian Cashman added veteran LHP James Paxton to the mix this time around. He had a fine season with the Mariners (3.76 ERA over 28 starts), and could get the Opening Day start if Severino doesn't have a strong spring.
But, before that in-house competition can begin, Severino must first go through arbitration hearings with the Yankees. Severino, who is in his first year of arbitration, was the only Yankee not to settle after the team countered his $5.25 million ask with $4.4 million. The hearing is set for Thursday in St. Petersburg, Fla.
When that comes to an end -- and both sides likely want it to be quick -- Severino will get to work. His offseason training has changed a tad due to the fatigue argument, which he noted wasn't entirely false. The closing days of the long grind of an MLB season can weigh on any player, but Severino doesn't want it affecting him too much down the stretch.
"I changed my [offseason] workout a little bit because I think I got a little tired at the end last year and also for my mechanics," he said. "I want to be consistent."
Consistent like his first half. Not the second.