Luis Severino delivers a pitch during a 2016 game at Yankee Stadium. (Getty Images)
Luis Severino needs to continue his development as a top-end starter for the Yankees now more than ever. (Photo: Getty Images)
He carries the weight of the future of the Yankees pitching staff on his shoulders.
 
Can you imagine carrying that kind of pressure? He can't think about it on a daily basis because it's likely that he puts enough pressure on himself just to establish himself as a starter. 
 
The young pitcher that I speak of is Luis Severino, who probably ponders his own mortality as a Yankees starting pitcher more than anything else. 
 
Last week was a good sign as he looked like a completely different pitcher on Thursday night in the Bronx during a 3-2 win over the Rays. 
 
On the same day the Yankees announced that former first-round pick and top pitching prospect James Kaprielian will undergo Tommy John surgery,  Severino might have given the fans in the Bronx a breakthrough performance. All of his pitches were working: the electric fastball, the slider and even the change-up, which has been a work in progress.  
 
He struck out 11 Rays, which is a career-high for the 23-year-old right-hander, over seven innings while allowing just a pair of runs. It was an enormous comeback from a nightmarish 2016 season in which he went 3-8 with a 5.83 ERA.
 
Severino pitched well during the spring down in Tampa and showed better fastball command and an improved change-up. He was not dominant but good enough to earn a spot in the Yankees starting rotation.
 
The team's message to him was pretty clear: It is now or never. It is time to take the ball as a starter and run with it.  
 
Put that message from the Yankees to Severino in all caps, underline it and put it in bold because now more than ever, the Yankees need Severino to become the pitcher they envisioned that he could be. 
 
The Yankees are loaded with young position-player talent, but the list is much shorter when it comes to power arms and starting pitching. 
 
Kaprielian is now lost for a significant amount of time with major elbow surgery, which many believe takes two full years to come all the way back from. Chance Adams has gotten off to a good start at double-A Trenton but showed a touch of wildness in Tampa during spring training. There is also Justus Sheffield, acquired in the Andrew Miller trade from the Indians, but he is probably two years away. 
 
So, that brings us to the cold hard reality that Severino might be the most important Yankees prospect of the entire bunch because the team doesn't have much else.  
 
He looked like that young dominant starter on Thursday and we certainly know the look in this town after seeing all the unveilings in Flushing.