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Michael King had a good idea that he didn’t fit in the Yankees rotation when the team broke camp this spring. The right hander came into spring training trying to find his niche and came up with the idea that his goal was to give the Yankees 100 solid innings however they want to use them.
Sunday, he got off to a good start with six scoreless innings in relief of Domingo German as the Yankees fell to the Blue Jays 3-1 in front of a “sell out” crowd of 10,066 at the Stadium. King saved the Yankees bullpen when Domingo German could not get past the third inning and kept the Yankees in the game.
Pitching in the big leagues for the first time since Sept. 18, 2019, German finally looked rusty and rattled. The Yankees offense continued to try and find its way, with the top four hitters in the order going 2-for-15 Sunday.
The Yankees (1-2) dropped their first series — including the opener with ace Gerrit Cole on the mound — of the season to the scrappy, young Blue Jays (2-1) who have made no secret of the fact they want to be the Yankees’ challenger for the division title.
There was little reassurance this weekend the Yankees would be able to easily fight them off.
In his first appearance at Yankee Stadium since serving an 81-game suspension under MLB’s domestic violence policy, German was met mostly by ambivalence when he was introduced. There was a smattering of applause, no audible boos — until he gave up three runs in the second inning.
After cruising through spring training, German struggled Sunday. He managed to just get through three innings on 68 pitches. He lost his command in the second inning and was hurt by an old weakness. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. crushed a leadoff homer in the inning and Randal Grichuk followed with a two-run homer before German could record an out.
In 2019, when German had his breakout, 18-win season, he was stung by the home run. In 27 appearances (24 starts) the 28-year-old allowed 30 homers.
Sunday, German exposed the soft underbelly of the Yankees heading into this season. Their rotation was still filled with question marks behind ace Gerrit Cole. Corey Kluber pitched fine Saturday, but he’s coming off two seasons mostly lost to injuries. Jameson Taillon, who was already skipped and will make his first start on Wednesday, missed all of last year and most of 2019 after having his second Tommy John surgery.
German pitched a career-high 143 innings back in 2019 then was shut down in September and only pitched a few innings in winter baseball this past offseason.
The Yankees have no idea what they will get from them and have to worry about building them up slowly and watching their workload all year.
But German’s early exit also showed what could develop into one of their strengths; their depth of arms like King.
King worked around a leadoff walk, a single and a runner on because of catchers interference in the fourth to get out of the inning unscathed and then the right hander rolled. He retired the side on six pitches in the sixth and the bats continued to be quiet Sunday.
Clint Frazier’s smart base running double to lead off the fifth turned into their only run on Brett Gardner’s ground out. The Yankees were 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position Sunday and 4-for-24 for the three-game series.