DUNEDIN, Fla. — When it comes to these spring training competitions, Aaron Boone — as Joe Girardi did before him — usually offers a form of this phrase:
"I hope they make it a tough decision for us."
In the current fifth starter competition, the Yankees have one.
Domingo German, coming off an 81-game suspension for violating MLB’s domestic violence policy in September 2019, has been terrific. But so has Deivi Garcia.
The latter was not quite as electric on Sunday as he had been in his previous outing Tuesday in Lakeland, when he struck out five, but he was just fine against the Blue Jays’ "A’’ lineup Sunday in a 5-1 comeback victory.
Garcia, 21, considered by many to be the Yankees’ top pitching prospect, allowed one run, one hit and two walks with two strikeouts in three innings. He has a 2.25 ERA in three starts, striking out 10 and walking two in eight innings.
The 28-year-old German, who will start against the Phillies on Monday afternoon at Steinbrenner Field, has not allowed a run in two starts, striking out seven and walking none in five innings.
"The first thing I would say is, I’m really excited about where both guys are," Boone said before the game. "I think the entire staff would have tremendous confidence in giving either one of them the ball in any situation, any game. So I feel like, as we sit here in the middle of March, we’re in a pretty good place as far as where our potential starting pitching is and where our starting pitching depth is."
Garcia, not surprisingly, is not politicking for the job.
"You come into camp and you understand the possibilities, and you get excited about that," he said through his interpreter after the game. " it’s not a decision I can make. I just want to give the best I have throughout the process. And don’t forget to enjoy it."
A sampling of opposing team scouts following the Yankees netted mixed results, though the consensus seems to be the pitcher with the higher upside ultimately is Garcia.
"For me, German is a 3 1⁄2, 4 starter," one rival talent evaluator said. "But I think Garcia might be a 3 or even potentially a 2. The overall stuff is better."
Another opposing team scout who has seen Garcia since his early days in the minors in rookie ball said: "He’s such a better pitcher now. He’s learned how to change speeds, he’s learned how to use his entire arsenal, he’s learned how to throttle his velocity depending on what’s needed. Really composed for a young kid."
But the second evaluator added that he’s a fan of German as well.
"It would be nice," he said, "to be able to figure out a way to keep both, honestly."
Barring injuries, that won’t happen out of camp, but Boone did hit on a similar point. With the natural attrition that injuries take on a pitching staff — typically, even the healthiest teams need eight to 10 starters to get through a season — it’s a certainty that both German and Garcia will be called on in 2021.
"The bottom line is, we know we’re going lean on all of them," Boone said, speaking generally of the starting pitching depth the organization believes it has. "Obviously, as much as Opening Day and the start of the season is a big thing . . . it’s a long season. And I really feel like both those guys, along with the rest of our starters, are going to be counted on in big ways.
"So let’s just continue to see it play out. And you know, hopefully, come April 1, when we’re setting our roster for the start, we have a difficult decision in front of us, a good decision in front of us. But also not a final decision in front of us."