TAMPA — Aaron Boone knows what he needs and expects from Luis Severino this season.
A month ago after a pre-camp workout at IMG Academy, Severino told The Post he was looking to become the best of the best after his breakthrough season in 2017. He wants to be right up there with the likes of Corey Kluber, Chris Sale and Clayton Kershaw.
That is his goal.
“I want to be on that level,’’ Severino said again Thursday at Steinbrenner Field. “I’m trying to be more perfect with my pitches.’’
Boone saw that search for perfection after Severino’s first outing of the spring against the Phillies, exactly three weeks before Opening Day.
“Hunger is a good thing for a ballplayer,’’ Boone said after Severino’s 3 ¹/₃ innings with three strikeouts, no earned runs and three hits in the Yankees’ 7-6 loss.
“He got a really good taste of it last year, one of the best pitchers in the league,’’ Boone said. “You sensed the hunger that’s there. There’s no satisfaction with what he’s done. Personally, you get that sense being around him that he expects to go out there and be great and to build on what was an amazing start last year.’’
To that end Severino unleashed some vicious sliders Thursday. Noted one scout at the game of Severino’s slider: “Late breaker and sharp.’’
Severino also has learned to take a little bit off the pitch to give it a curveball look when he needs to, and that freezes hitters and gets their timing completely off.
This is all part of becoming an ace of aces.
“I feel great,’’ Severino said. “Everything was working. I wanted to work on my changeup. I threw a lot and they worked. I think I can make it even better.’’
He said his confidence has grown so much in his changeup that he feels comfortable throwing it in any count. That’s all part of the building process, too.
“I’m trying to be the best Luis Severino I can possibly be,’’ he said.
The Yankees have upgraded their offense by adding Giancarlo Stanton to go along with Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge and all the rest. That will help Severino, too. He is impressed. After five innings Thursday with the regulars in the lineup, the Yankees were leading 6-1.
“They’re great hitters, they can put the ball in play,’’ Severino said. “They can run, they’re fast. I just need to concentrate on my pitches and everything is going to be good.’’
In his first full major league season, Severino went 14-6 with a 2.98 ERA, holding right-handers to a .198 average. He ranked third in the AL in ERA, fourth in strikeouts (230) and ninth in innings pitched. He had the lowest ERA by a Yankee starter since 1997. Perhaps, most impressive, was the fact he was the second AL pitcher in 41 years to post a sub-3.00 ERA with at least 225 strikeouts at age 23 or younger, joining Roger Clemens (2.48, 238 Ks) in his AL MVP and Cy Young winning season of 1986.
Because of all the innings he threw — 209 innings including the postseason — Severino, 24, said last month he has accelerated his running program, going old school a bit, and that helps him build endurance for all those innings. He cut back on his throwing this offseason and ran 30 minutes a day.
“I threw a lot of innings, that’s why I did it and I feel good now,’’ Severino said of increasing his running game the past two offseasons.
Again, this is all part of the mission to excel, the show of hunger. The work.
As for his first postseason start — recording just one out and allowing three runs in an AL wild-card victory against the Twins — Severino said again Thursday he was “too excited’’ for the game, “but after that I was ready.’’
Severino is ready in more ways than one. He worked overtime to get in terrific shape, focusing his workouts on flexibility and making the workouts more core-oriented to achieve his lofty goals. And he is dressing for success as well.
As he left the ballpark I asked the brand of shirt he was wearing. Severino smiled and said, “Versace.’’