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Yankees would be wise to maximize Domingo Germán’s skillset in the bullpen

The Yankees’ right-hander is a league-average starter, but could help out of the ‘pen in shorter spurts once he returns from the IL.

Tampa Bay Rays v New York Yankees Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Domingo Germán, who has been rehabbing a shoulder injury, is very close to making his return to the Yankees staff. He has consecutive three-inning live batting practice sessions under his belt in June, the last one coming on Wednesday. Per manager Aaron Boone, the next step on his road back will be a rehab assignment in the minor leagues, so barring any setbacks, he could be ready to return within the next couple of weeks.

The Yankees have said that they want him stretched out as a possible starter, but Germán might make be a better fit as a multi-inning reliever. He has been used mostly as a starter for the majority of his career, but does have some relief appearances. In 77 games lifetime — 56 of which have been starts — his ERA is a rather mediocre 4.54 with a similarly modest 4.47 FIP. Germán’s end-of-season ERAs in 2018, 2019, and 2021 are 5.57, 4.03, and 4.58; not disastrous, but probably not as good as one might expect from a potential member of one of baseball’s top rotations in baseball in 2022.

As a starter, German has a career 4.71 ERA, and opposing batters have a .456 slugging percentage and a .318 wOBA. On the other hand, he has a 3.42 ERA across 47.1 innings as a reliever: hitters slug .314 against him, with a much more manageable .273 wOBA.

German’s command and less-than-ideal fastball just may not be suited for being an elite starter. Oh, and he has a 6.99 career ERA the third time through the order. It’s evident that his ceiling as a member of the rotation is capped unless his command (or his fastball) dramatically improves.

It makes sense to test Germán as a multi-inning reliever. It’s a trendy role, it may suit his skillset a bit more, and it probably won’t require him going two or three times through the order, which would make him more vulnerable.

In this slot, Germán’s fastball velocity could potentially increase a bit without the need to pitch five or six innings, and his imperfect command wouldn’t be a huge problem with his quality secondaries and the added ticks in the four-seamer, in theory.

The primary reason why the Yankees should try him in the bullpen, however, is because there is currently no room for him in the rotation. It’s understandable that the Yankees are stretching Germán out while he rehabs because the next starter injury is always just around the corner, but Gerrit Cole, Nestor Cortes, Luis Severino, Jameson Taillon, and Jordan Montgomery are all healthy and performing.

So if Germán is ready to pitch and the status quo remains the same, the Yankees might as well use him in a different role so he can actually be a regular contributor. And while the Yankees have been continually producing quality relievers in the last couple of seasons (Michael King, Ron Marinaccio and Clarke Schmidt are the latest stars, for example), there is more of a need in the bullpen right now.

The best thing about using Germán in a multi-inning relief role is that if he is needed as a starter later down the road, he could be stretched out and the process wouldn’t be as long as if he is used as a traditional, one-inning bullpen arm. Injuries might hit the rotation at one point, and Germán could be required to start eventually. If that’s the case, then you use the one pitcher with MLB starting experience and slowly ramp up his innings. In the meantime, it would be best to take advantage of his profile and try him in this new role.