‘I call it ‘CSI: The Bronx’’: Yankees baffled by Luis Severino’s setback

Brian Cashman has talked to the player, the doctors and physical therapists involved, and the pitching coach Severino worked with.

Luis Severino
The Yankees have yet to determine an explanation for starter Luis Severino's latissimus dorsi muscle strain while recovering from a shoulder injury this month. –The Associated Press

NEW YORK — As the New York Yankees try to determine how, exactly, their ace Luis Severino suffered a significant strain of his latissimus dorsi muscle while recovering from a shoulder injury, general manager Brian Cashman has a new nickname for the endeavor.

“I call it ‘CSI: The Bronx’ because we’re involving a lot of people,” he said, playing off the titles of the TV show franchise.

Since the Yankees’ discovery of Severino’s lat injury last week, Cashman has talked to the player, the doctors and physical therapists involved, and the pitching coach who worked with Severino at the team’s spring training facility in Tampa, Florida. Still, for the moment, the team does not have an explanation.

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“I’m walking through the entire process,” Cashman said Wednesday before the Yankees’ 5-3 victory over the visiting Boston Red Sox. “I’m not going to deliver a Mueller report whenever I conclude it. But we’re going through, and I’m personally engaging every aspect and going through the trainer logs.”

With Cashman’s investigation still unfolding Wednesday, the depleted Yankees came back to topple the struggling Boston Red Sox, sweeping the two-game set. Brett Gardner smashed a go-ahead grand slam, the 100th home run of his career, off Red Sox relief pitcher Ryan Brasier in the seventh inning.

Despite Severino’s absence, the Yankees rotation has been solid, if far from perfect. Veteran starter J.A. Happ turned in his best performance of the season against Boston: allowing three runs — all on home runs early in the game — over 6 1/3 innings.

“That was a big feeling,” said Gardner, who raised his average to .203. “Obviously, the season hasn’t gotten off to the start that I would have envisioned or liked for myself and the team, so to be able to come through in a big spot like that for what was a big game in the middle of April felt good.”

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As uplifting as two wins over the Red Sox were, the Yankees (8-9) were still left grappling with a perplexing case in Severino’s injury.

The background: Severino, 25, was scratched from his first spring training start on March 5 because of discomfort while warming up. Cashman said an MRI exam at that point showed only rotator cuff inflammation — technically, the supraspinatus muscle in the upper back — and no strain of the latissimus dorsi muscle, which runs roughly from the arm pit to the hip.

While returning from the rotator cuff injury, Severino was making long tosses and hoping to progress to throwing off a mound but he didn’t feel like he had the requisite force to do so. Severino flew to New York and had a new MRI on April 8 that showed a Grade 2 (on a scale of three) latissimus dorsi muscle strain, Cashman said.

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Adding more mystery to the diagnosis is the fact that Severino was examined by an orthopedist on March 23, and no issues were discovered. The young pitcher was doing chest press and lat pull-down exercises on April 2, Cashman said.

“Every aspect, we’re walking through the protocols, trying to determine what happened,” he said. “Because, that type of injury, you usually know exactly what you did.”

Severino said Wednesday that he wasn’t sure how he hurt his lat but believed it happened that day he was scratched in early March. He said he felt pain in his back then, which Cashman said Severino told the team about.

“Maybe something happened,” Severino said. “I can’t say nothing. But I’m happy now they found out what was going on and we are on the right way to fix it.”

Severino said he has five more weeks in which he would receive treatment without throwing. After that, he can resume some baseball activities. He did not have a return date to the major leagues in mind yet.

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“I just want to get healthy and help the team to come back,” he said.

Severino is just one of many Yankees’ injuries this season. Their 12 players on the injured list are the most in the major leagues. When first baseman Greg Bird landed on the IL on Tuesday with a torn plantar fascia in his left foot, he was the 13th different Yankees player to have landed on the IL this year.

Injuries are inevitable during a long regular season. Third baseman Miguel Andujar suffered a small labral tear in his right shoulder when diving back to a base. Catcher Gary Sanchez, who could return as soon as Sunday, suffered a left calf strain when he scrambled back to third base on a pickoff attempt, Cashman said.

But the sheer number of injuries in a short span, particularly when some have lingered far longer than first expected, has raised questions about the Yankees’ medical procedures. Throughout these weeks, Cashman said his belief in the team’s training and medical staffs, which work in conjunction with NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, has remained high.

“We have tremendous people,” Cashman said. “And as I’ve said and we’ve talked about in our meetings, it’s a party line, too.”

And by that, Cashman meant that certain injured Yankees — including relief pitcher Dellin Betances, who was dealt a setback in his rehabilitation and will miss another six to seven weeks — received a second opinion from a doctor requested by their agents. Center fielder Aaron Hicks, who was originally expected to miss only a few days in March with a back injury but has not yet returned, was also sent to an outside back specialist in Florida during his rehabilitation.

“So as we’re walking through this in real time, we’re giving information that we’re getting on the front end from experts,” Cashman said. “We think this is going to be fine and he’ll get through it, and then we have to go into an even further dive.”