Mets teammates help Luis Severino get a grip on wayward sweeper

CINCINNATI — In his season-opening dud, Luis Severino lost his sweeper. After a discovery made during a bullpen session this week, he believes he has found it again.

The Mets righty was happy with his stuff, and his sweeper, during a strong Grapefruit League showing but didn’t bring the pitch into the regular season.

His debut on Saturday — six runs allowed on 11 hits in five innings in a loss to the Brewers — included a flat sweeper that did not sweep, one middle-of-the-plate spinner Rhys Hoskins launched for a two-run home run.

Severino struggled with the pitch during his debut on Saturday.
Luis Severino struggled with the pitch during his Mets’ debut on Saturday. Getty Images

Severino’s confusion led to a talk this week in the bullpen with Sean Manaea and Yohan Ramirez, who both throw sweepers, and pitching coach Jeremy Hefner.

Manaea and Ramirez showed Severino how they gripped the pitch (which is distinct from Severino’s slider), and Severino realized he had subtly lost the grip that he used during a successful spring.

“I was like, ‘It’s not moving right,’ ” Severino said Friday before the Mets opened the series against the Reds at Great American Ball Park, where Severino is set to get the ball Saturday.

“Spring training was good. And all of a sudden it went away. I was holding the ball, and they told me, ‘That’s not how you throw the sweeper. This is the right way.’”

Hefner knew something was awry with the offering from its movement profile and some video work, then witnessed the epiphany.

Severino tweaked his grip, began throwing the pitch and saw the movement return.

“Sometimes those things happen,” Hefner said, “where you think you’re holding the ball a particular way, and then you’re not, and then you don’t correct it right away. And then you don’t pitch as well as you should.”

Teammates showed him a new approach to gripping the ball which may help.
Mets teammates helped Luis Severino reestablish the correct grip for his sweeper. Bill Kostroun/New York Post

The Mets do not have a healthy pitcher with a higher upside than Severino, a two-time All-Star who was among the best pitchers in the game in 2017 and ’18 with the Yankees.

But several injuries and seasons later, Severino was a mess last year, when his contract season went about as badly as possible and finished with a 6.65 ERA.

The Mets pounced on the former crosstown ace and made a $13 million bet that they could help Severino find his old self.

The spring brought optimism, but his debut brought fears that Severino had not been saved. Many Mets have had poor first weeks of their seasons, but odds are that slumping hitters such as Francisco Lindor and Brandon Nimmo will snap out of it.

There are no guarantees of a bounce-back from Severino, whose poor first game arguably was the worst sign of the team’s season thus far.

Severino, though, is not discouraged in large part because he believes he has fixed what went wrong. His velocity (a fastball that averaged 95.5 mph and touched 98.1 mph) is back, and he is happy with his control (not issuing a walk against Milwaukee).

“I feel like I’m really, really close,” Severino said.

The Mets’ rotation will need him. Kodai Senga is likely gone until June with a shoulder strain, and Tylor Megill — his replacement — also is sidelined by a right shoulder strain.

The Mets have been desperate enough to sign Julio Teheran to join a rotation that includes Friday starter Jose Quintana, the promising Manaea and the solid-if-not-more Adrian Houser.

Most hopes of the Mets surprising this season rely upon fliers such as Severino finding their ceilings.

Which makes a bullpen realization a potentially large development for Severino and his team.

“Usually it doesn’t work that way,” Hefner said. “Usually it’s much more of a two- or three-start fix or something mechanical, something like that.

“For it to be just a subtle grip thing, and every [sweeper] is doing what you want them to do, it was really cool to see.”


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