When the Yankees reinstated Domingo Germán and brought him into spring training, they may not have been prepared for the level of controversy he drummed up with his presence. Aaron Boone said early on in camp that he would “put a little strength in my antenna as far as something that I’m looking at more closely,” when the first ripples from Germán’s return surfaced. Boone didn’t sound too worried, but it’s a careful ledge that the team had to cross when the 28-year-old arrived in Tampa.
It wasn’t handled particularly smoothly, to say the least. Germán stirred the pot almost immediately by making cryptic posts on his Instagram account, then by deleting all of his posts on the social media platform. Zack Britton was asked about Germán on the first day of media availability, and proceeded to respond by saying, among other things, that “you don’t get to control who your teammates are.” Luke Voit later warned that though the team will support Germán, the pitcher is “skating on thin ice”, and has to get things together.
This is not the first time that the Yankees have dealt with integrating a player who has allegedly committed domestic violence. The team traded for, re-signed, and currently employs Aroldis Chapman, who was suspended ahead of the 2016 season for firing eight gunshots out of a window after an argument with his partner. We don’t know all of the details to Germán’s situation, but for all intents and purposes it seems as though he his teammates have been much more reluctant to allow him back into the team’s good graces.
Everyone’s definition of a second chance varies, but it’s clear that the Yankees intend to give Germán one — and the players believe that he can benefit from one as well. He’s in camp vying for a spot back on the starting rotation, but he faces stiff competition there. Deivi García enters as the incumbent for the fifth slot, having made a promising debut last year, and Germán is facing some physical limitations as well — he hasn’t pitched at the major-league level in over a year. Germán’s attempt to get back in a groove over the winter failed miserably as well, as he pitched to a 7.16 ERA in five starts and 16.1 innings.
It’s likely that as spring plays out, García or some other pitcher winds up being the clear winner for the job anyway. Even if Germán managed to shake off the rust by throwing down in the Dominican Republic and performs well in Florida though, the wisest decision may be to just place him in a less-important role to start the year. Carrying Germán as a long reliever lets him work back into the majors and gives him an opportunity to stretch his arm out responsibly, while allowing him to focus on earning back the trust of his teammates, if that’s something that can even be done at this point.
For Germán, heading to the ‘pen for some low-impact innings is a suitable opportunity — both to get back physically and to have a chance to figure out where he stands in the clubhouse. For the Yankees, it’s a compromise that brings Germán back onto the roster while acknowledging that he has a lot to prove before he can be counted on again.