The New York Yankees have their top four rotation arms virtually set. Gerrit Cole will be the ace, and Corey Kluber, Jameson Taillon, and Jordan Montgomery will likely follow him in some order. However, the fifth spot remains up in the air, and according to pitching coach Matt Blake, the competition seems to be wide open as of now.
“We haven’t gotten far enough into camp yet,” Blake said in an interview on the YES Network broadcast. “But, obviously, you know Deivi and German have both looked really good. Mike King looked good the other day. So, I think we’re going to have a lot of horses in the race assuming we stay healthy. So, that’s a good problem.”
Overall, despite allowing a couple of home runs against the Phillies last week during his first spring appearance, Deivi García has looked the part. Yesterday, he completely shut down the Tigers while pitching three innings. Over those three frames, Garcia didn’t allow any runs and only conceded a couple of base hits that were erased by double plays. He also struck out five foes: three looking, and two swinging. To sum up, he was inducing grounders and whiffs while keeping hitters off balance.
The most important takeaway from García’s Tuesday performance is the fact that he didn’t issue any free passes, which will be huge for him given that he had issues keeping his BB/9 under four over his last minor league stops. In 2020, young Deivi took a step forward with his control, issuing only 1.57 walks per nine frames en route to a 4.98 ERA and a 4.15 FIP. Yet, he needs to prove that the gains he made were not a fluke and/or a product of a small sample size.
Overall, his 34.1 inning stint with the Yankees last season was atypical in many ways. After running 4.00+ BB/9 marks in three minor league stops in 2019, the 1.57 figure raises eyebrows, to say the least. However, his K/9, usually over 10, dropped to 8.65. The 2021 campaign will hopefully tell us a little bit more about where his command and stuff will normalize, but the truth, as usual, probably lies somewhere in the middle.
All things considered, Deivi García still has a chance to win the Yankees’ fifth rotation spot, even if Domingo German is viewed as the slight favorite right now. The latter looked good in his first spring training appearance, but there are still games to be played and time to cover from this point until Opening Day.
“I think there are some things just from a development standpoint that we want to make sure that Deivi and Mike and 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.”
In any case, April rotations and pitching plans are very volatile, as pitchers are not usually built up to 100 pitches in the early stages of the season. So even if Blake puts a premium on German’s prior big league success, the battle isn’t over yet. Even if García doesn’t win the job right away, there will likely be plenty of opportunities for him to contribute, and he is building a strong case to pitch important innings for the Yankees in 2021 and prove that he belongs in the bigs.