TAMPA — Deivi Garcia’s attempt at making the Yankees rotation to start the season came to an end Friday, when he was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
The news was hardly a surprise. The 21-year-old Garcia clearly trailed Domingo German in the fight for the final spot in the rotation following three rough Grapefruit League outings in which Garcia struggled with his command.
Because the start of the minor league season has been delayed, Garcia will report to the alternate site, which Aaron Boone indicated earlier in the week, when he said he viewed both Garcia and German as starters — and not candidates to join the bullpen on a short-term basis.
But the manager has also stressed that he still expects Garcia — and Clarke Schmidt — to provide valuable innings for the Yankees this season. It just won’t happen right away.
While Garcia‘s control varied from start to start, German has been solid throughout the spring.
German’s camp got off to a rough start after he returned from the MLB suspension that cost him all of last season for violating the league’s domestic-violence protocols.
Some teammates, most notably Zack Britton, made it clear they weren’t thrilled with German’s return, but German calmed some of the waters by addressing the team early in the spring.
His performance on the mound took care of the rest. German looked even better than he did in 2019, when he emerged as a consistent starter in The Bronx.
In nine innings, covering three starts, German didn’t allow a run and struck out 13.
It’s unclear when the Yankees will need a fifth starter early in the season, with a pair of off-days in the first eight days of the season.
Gerrit Cole is lined up to start Opening Day on Thursday in The Bronx, but Boone hasn’t revealed the rest of the rotation order.
In the last turn, Jameson Taillon followed Cole, with Corey Kluber and Jordan Montgomery next. German would be next in line, whenever that is. But Boone warned against looking too far into the order as of now.
“It’s on my radar, but I wouldn’t say that’s necessarily the order,’’ Boone said. “In my head, [I have an order], but I haven’t finalized it yet.”
Perhaps not, but the Yankees made one of their most significant decisions of the spring. Garcia was thought to have a good shot at breaking camp in the rotation before spring training started.
In six regular season starts during the regular season last year, Garcia had a 4.98 ERA with 33 strikeouts in 34 ¹/₃ innings. This spring, Garcia had a 3.86 ERA in 14 innings over five starts, but he also walked eight batters in his last nine innings.
“German looks ready to go right now, just plug him into a game and go,’’ one NL scout said. “Garcia is still learning. There’s a clear gap there.”
That gap will lead to German starting the season in The Bronx in another step in what the 28-year-old hopes is a long-lasting comeback.
Boone has said repeatedly this spring that German has “looked the part.”
“He looked really polished,’’ Boone said after German’s most recent outing. “You kind of say, ‘That’s a really good pitcher right there. A guy who can do a lot of things on the mound.’’’
As for Garcia, Boone has previously said: “Do I think he can be a really good big league pitcher right now? Absolutely I do. But is there more development for a 21, 22-year-old kid? Of course there is. But that doesn’t mean I don’t think that development can come at the big league level.”
That development will continue in the minors for now.