SAN DIEGO — Deivi Garcia will get his first playoff start on Tuesday night, the first rookie to start a playoff game for the Yankees since Luis Severino. In a surprise move, the Yankees chose the 21-year-old to start the second game of the American League Division Series against the Rays over more experienced starters Masahiro Tanaka — who will be starting Game 3 — and J.A. Happ
Garcia will be the youngest Yankee to make a postseason start at 21 years and 140 days, younger than Whitey Ford, the only other 21-year-old to make a playoff start. He was 21 and 350 days in 1950.
“That means a lot to me. It’s a moment that has brought me a lot of excitement,” Garcia said through Yankees translator Marlon Abreu. “My family is going to be watching in the Dominican Republic, and then you can be supporting me from over there. And like I said, it means a lot to get the ball in a game in such an important game. So it’s gonna be exciting.”
By pushing Tanaka back to Game 3, the Yankees are covered with a veteran, big-game pitcher in Game 3 if they are facing a clinching game or an elimination game.
Garcia made six starts this season, pitching to a 4.98 ERA over 34.1 innings. After busting onto the big stage, Garcia struggled down the stretch. He allowed 10 earned runs over 9.2 innings pitched against the Red Sox and Marlins in his last two starts.
But Game 2 may just be a start — or opening. Yankees manager Aaron Boone did not dismiss the suggestion that he would piggyback Happ or fellow lefty Jordan Montgomery behind Garcia.
“Yeah, it could be. We’ll just kind of see how it’s rolling, and we’re in an all hands on deck kind of situation now, even though we’re just getting started in series,” Boone said. “So, you know, we’ll do what we have to do to try and win the ballgame.”
Garcia will be a new look for the Rays, who have never faced him.
“I think the way he’s pitched one and the way he’s handled himself and handled every situation so far, I just felt like there were a lot of good options there,” Boone said of picking Garcia as Game 2 pitcher. “But Deivi (has) shown that I don’t worry about him not being able to handle it mentally, emotionally and all those things ... I know he’s looking forward to it.”
Maybe the question is more about how Happ will handle the snub after having already been upset with the Yankees this season.
The 37-year-old started out struggling this year and had a public spat with the Yankees over how the incentives in his contract would be handed in this coronavirus-pandemic shortened season.
But he finished strong.
In his final seven starts this season, Happ had a 2.34 ERA with 39 strikeouts in 42.1 innings pitched. He allowed five home runs in that span. He was also, arguably, the Yankees' best pitcher in that span.
Part of it was Happ rediscovering the changes he made to his delivery over the winter after the four-month coronavirus shutdown. A lot of it was more regular starts after having stuttered starts with eight and nine days rest.
“Obviously when you have this seven, eight or nine days in between it’s hard to stay sharp,” Yankees pitching coach Matt Blake admitted.
Happ, obviously unhappy with the schedule that first month, insinuated that the Yankees were holding him back from making 10 starts this season, which would be the prorated mark to trigger his $17 million vesting option for 2021. Yankees GM Brian Cashman was blunt in his public response, saying in effect that they gave priority to their better pitchers in scheduling.
After that, Happ went out and showed he was one of their better pitchers.
Boone emphasized that Happ, who has not pitched since Sept. 25, is still a big part of their plans.
“He’s gonna play a big role for us…..He’s answered the bell every time, whether he’s been disappointed or whatever. It hasn’t obviously affected his pitching,” Boone said. “After his first two starts in the season, he’s been as good as a starter we’ve had and I feel that confidence with him moving forward.”
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