This time last year, Deivi García reported to camp with no prior big-league experience, doing his best to make a name for himself as one of New York's top prospects. Now, entering his sophomore season, the right-hander is still fighting for a spot in New York's starting rotation.
García made six starts last year, shining in his debut against the Mets on Aug. 30 with six innings of one-run ball. After finishing the regular season with a 4.98 ERA with 33 strikeouts over 34.1 innings pitched, García opened Game 2 of the American League Division Series against the Rays.
Some appearances in 2020 were bumpier than others, but García's cumulative performance showed that he has what it takes to pitch at the next level. Nonetheless, Yankees manager Aaron Boone confirmed this week that the fifth spot in New York's rotation will be decided in a competition this spring.
"[Domingo] Germán, Deivi, [Clarke] Schmidt, Jhoulys Chacin who we brought in. All these guys we feel like are certainly capable of stepping into that role," Boone said on Wednesday. "We'll see how the next five six weeks unfold and then, obviously, how we even start the season may look very different than from where we're at say in May or June."
With the offseason additions of Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon, along with ace Gerrit Cole and left-hander Jordan Montgomery, the Yankees have their first four starters set (barring any injuries, of course).
Rather than pressing as he attempts to earn that fifth spot on the staff, García is focusing on how he can improve this spring.
"I'm a young player and I have a great opportunity here to learn from so many different players that we have in camp," he said via the Yankees interpreter on Friday. "For me, it's to focus on the opportunity at hand, do the best I can stay healthy, which is very important, and just focus on my job and face the responsibilities I have as a pitcher for this team and focus on that."
Specifically, the 21-year-old added that he's working to make all four of his pitches sharper, striving to simplify his craft on the mound. If he can make his fastball, changeup, curve and slider more effective, he can take a massive leap forward as a sophomore in this league.
"I feel really, really good," García said. "Just being around here, to have the opportunity to keep learning so much from being around all the teammates we have in camp and I think it's a great opportunity to keep on moving forward in my career and take the next steps."
García pitched in the Dominican Winter League this offseason, checking an item off his baseball bucket list. It was only three starts—suiting up for the Tigres del Licey—but for such a young pitcher, more reps are crucial in his development.
"My family, my neighbors, pretty much everybody from where I'm from wanted to see me pitch for them," García said. "I was able to do that and it was a great experience. That's going to help me develop even more. It was great."
As Boone mentioned, Domingo Germán, Clarke Schmidt and Jhoulys Chacín are all in the running for the fifth spot in the rotation. Others that could earn starts this year include Michael King, Nick Nelson and Jonathan Loaisiga. Right-hander Luis Severino is poised to make his return from Tommy John surgery at some point this summer.
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