The Yankees want to keep DJ LeMahieu. If they do, it’s likely that general manager Brian Cashman won’t have much else to spend on payroll if owner Hal Steinbrenner wants to keep it below the $210-million luxury tax threshold, as speculated.

That makes the return of right-hander Luis Severino all that more important.

Not only must the Yankees get the final stages of Severino’s Tommy John surgery rehab right, they must be careful with him when he’s back to make sure he stays healthy.

And the Yankees apparently already have plans for that, according to Cashman.

“Severino coming out of the gate in the middle of the season will have maybe some safeties on, so to speak, until we get a chance to get a feel for where he’s at,” Cashman told Meredith Marakovits on “Yankees Hot Stove” on the YES Network on Thursday.

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Cashman also called Severino and Domingo German “easy, in theory, No. 2s at worst” when it comes to the starting rotation. German will return return from a suspension under the league’s domestic violence policy that began in late 2019.

Previously, Cashman has speculated Severino might not be back until the summer. He had the surgery, which reconstructed his ulnar collateral ligament, on Feb. 27.

“He’ll return, God willing, as long as there are no setbacks,” Cashman said.

When Severino has been healthy, he’s been one of the best pitchers in the American League. He finished third in the Cy Young vote in 2017, going 14-6 with a 2.98 ERA. In 2018, he finished ninth, going 19-8 with a 3.39 ERA. He pitched in just three games in 2019, dealing with various injuries, before needing Tommy John.

The Yankees dreamed of pairing Severino with ace Gerrit Cole for the 2019 season. They likely will finally get their chance sometime in the middle of 2021.

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Brendan Kuty may be reached at [email protected]. Tell us your coronavirus story or send a tip here.

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