‘I’ll Be Back To What I Was’ (www.mlb.com)

TAMPA, Fla. — The Yankees are banking on

‘s return to the rotation sometime this summer, thinking of the right-hander as a midseason pickup. The two-time All-Star believes he can beat that timetable.

Severino has been tossing at distances of 90 feet and is scheduled to increase to 120 feet this week. His next step would be to throw from a mound, which could happen before the end of Spring Training, entering the regimen of building velocity and stamina by facing hitters.

“Mentally and physically, I feel good,” Severino said. “I hope to be back sooner [than summer], but that’s not something that I have an exact date. The most important thing is that I feel really good, and I’m just taking it day by day. We’re close to throwing bullpens, so we’ll see how I feel and how the progress is going.”

Severino underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery on Feb. 27, 2020, stalling plans to pair him with ace right-hander Gerrit Cole atop the rotation. Severino expects that he’ll eventually get to pitch alongside Cole, Corey Kluber, Jameson Taillon and the Bombers’ other starters.

“Our rotation is going to be great, man,” Severino said. “We’re going to have six, seven, eight guys that would be good pitchers on any team. I hope nothing happens to one of those guys, but if somebody goes down, we’ve got somebody else there.”

Yankees manager Aaron Boone said that he expects Severino will be a contributor in 2021.

“I’m thinking he’s very much going to be a part of it; when is the question,” Boone said. “Whether it’s midseason, All-Star break, the Trade Deadline — that’ll play itself out here over the next few months. He looks really good right now. He’s a big part of our plans.”

Being away from the team during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season was difficult for Severino, who tabbed several teammates and other players around the league as resources during his recovery. Severino said that former Yankee Adam Ottavino was especially helpful.

Left-hander Jordan Montgomery said that he would urge Severino to take his rehab slow and not skip ahead in the process.

“I remember how excited I was to get off the mound, because you’re always just looking for that next phase,” Montgomery said. “My best advice would be just not to get overly excited and really kind of stay in the moment. There’s really no reason to let it rip in your bullpens right now. I was a little overanxious and let it rip and ended up having a little shoulder setback that set me back four weeks. So really treat it like another phase and keep moving.”

Severino said that he experienced some trepidation when he resumed playing catch, but he is encouraged that his progress seems to have gone smoothly thus far. He has been tossing only fastballs and has been told that he will be allowed to spin the ball next week.

“I’m 100 percent sure that I’ll be back to what I was in the past,” Severino said. “I feel pretty strong. When I get the chance to be back in New York, I’ll be myself again.”

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