It was a surprise when Aaron Boone told reporters Monday that rookie Deivi Garcia was getting the ball for Game 2 of the ALDS against the Tampa Bay Rays. Boone reiterated the team’s confidence in the 21-year-old after seeing what he could do during the regular season.
But does it really make sense to have Garcia’s seventh career start be in a postseason series? It actually does when you bring into play the current playoff landscape Boone needs to navigate with his club.
No off days are extremely tough for every team in the postseason, especially when they’re trying to put together a pitching rotation without them. For example, Gerrit Cole will need to pitch on short rest if this series has to go to Game 5. That’s just unheard of but it’s what needs to happen this year.
So the thinking behind the Garcia placement could be this:
- Garcia pitches in Game 2 with the hope that Game 1 goes to the Yankees with Cole starting (check that box off)
- Game 2 now offers the least amount of pressure for a starter, so the rookie doesn’t need to stress too much.
- The pivotal Game 3, then, goes to Masahiro Tanaka naturally with his experience and potentially J.A. Happ getting Game 4, if the series goes that long.
A possible wrinkle in that thought process, though, is Boone did say Happ could come on after Garcia tonight, which would mean the rookie serves as an opener followed by the veteran lefty. But this could also be some gamesmanship between Boone and Ray manager Kevin Cash. Boone doesn’t want to give away all his plans so that Cash can prepare properly.
Either way you call it, Garcia has the arsenal and demeanor to get the job done. As we broke down recently, Garcia’s hard-hit rate is respectable, though not ideal for a starter (39.6 percent in the regular season). But his slow curveball – a weapon he likes to use a lot on different counts – works to keep hitters off balance. It’s a main reason why he has gotten hitters to pop up 13.2 percent of at-bats this season.
Garcia won’t blow a fastball by you like his opponent on the mound, Tyler Glasnow, but it has extra life on it because of the slower off-speed stuff. His changeup is also a solid pitch that is 10 mph less than his fastball average. A deceptive delivery where Garcia turns his back to the hitter is also a reason the fastball looks to reach the plate much quicker than what the radar gun reads.
And maybe the most important factor in Garcia’s decision is his confidence and determination on the mound. At 5-foot-9, Garcia has been told he can’t be a starter or even pitch in the bigs his entire life. Defying those odds and proving his worth comes with a natural chip on his shoulder, and the Yankees have seen that all season. Gary Sanchez called him “fearless” when he steps on the mound, and that’s just the mindset the Yankees are looking for in this Game 2 matchup.