DUNEDIN, FLA. — The Yankees said they had a good battle going for the fifth starting spot, with three spring starts likely left after Sunday. They were thrilled with Deivi Garcia’s breakout rookie season in 2020 and everyone was pleased with what Domingo German showed on the field after missing all of last season due to a domestic violence suspension
“I’m really excited about where both guys are,” Aaron Boone said of the roster spot battle between German and Garcia. “I think the entire staff would have tremendous confidence and given either one of them the ball in any situation, in any game. So I feel like as we sit here in the middle of March, we’re in a pretty good place as far as where potential starting pitching is and where our starting pitching depth is. The bottom line is we know we’re going to lean on all of them... It’s a long season and I really feel like both those guys, along with the rest of our starters are going to be counted on in big ways.
“So let’s just continue to see it play out, and hopefully, when we’re making the roster for the starters, we will have a difficult decision.”
In a year when workloads will be uncertain, coming off a 2020 season when pitchers went through a start-and-stop spring training and an abbreviated season, there is no doubt the Yankees — and most teams — will need seven to nine starters to get through the season. Both Garcia and German are coming in with what will likely be limited innings as Garcia builds up from his career-high 111.1 innings in 2019 and German comes back after having not pitched to big leaguers since September 2019.
To outsiders watching and evaluating the Yankees this spring, however, it’s pretty clear the battle has been won.
“German would be my No. 2 on that staff,” one National League scout said. “He’s got the best stuff outside of Cole. He’s got better stuff right now than (Corey) Kluber.”
German, who starts Monday against the Phillies at George M. Steinbrenner Field has not allowed a run in two starts. He has struck out seven in five innings of work.
Garcia made his third spring training start Sunday, allowing an unearned run on one hit in three innings pitched. He struck out two and walked two. He’s not looking at each start as an audition, instead he thinks he has a longer resume.
“I try to give the best I have every single time I go out and... try to improve every outing, every time I go out there,” Garcia said through Yankees translator Marlon Abreu. “I think if you keep doing that little by little you can state your case.”
In eight innings this spring, Garcia has allowed two earned runs — both home runs in his first start. He has walked four and struck out 10.
“He’s got really good stuff,” a National League scout said. “He’s got a really good idea of what he’s doing out there for being so young. He knows when to use his velocity and when to back off. He just needs to learn more about when to use his pitches.”
That is something that comes with experience and time and the freedom from the organization to call games. For a 21-year-old, Garcia is clearly advanced and the Yankees like where he’s heading.
“In Lakeland, for example, I mean, he was just so efficient, commanding the breaking ball changing speeds on the breaking ball. Even mixing in a slider I remember one at bat where he went; slow curveball strike, slower curveball strike, hard slider punch out,” Boone said. “Then he was able to dial it up to 94-95 miles an hour at the top of the zone but not overdoing it, not wasting pitches.”
Still, Yankees pitching coach Matt Blake may have let the organization’s thinking slip last week. On the YES Network during a game, he pointed out that German has so much more experience than Garcia right now.
Blake admitted they weren’t quite ready.
“I think there are some things just from a development standpoint that we want to make sure that Deivi and Mike (King) and (Nick) Nelson and some of these guys kind of get to,” Blake said. “Obviously, German, having his 2019 performance, he’s established himself at the major-league level.”