Deivi Garcia has six big-league starts. In his life.
Masahiro Tanaka has nine big-league starts. In the postseason.
But it was the 21-year-old Garcia and not the veteran Tanaka who got the nod from Aaron Boone to start Tuesday’s Game 2 of the ALDS against the Rays at San Diego’s Petco Park.
According to MLB.com, Garcia (21 years and 140 days) will become the youngest pitcher in Yankees history to start a postseason game. Whitey Ford was 21 years and 351 days old when he started and won Game 4 of the 1950 World Series.
Boone, who made the closely held, surprise announcement hours before Monday’s series opener, named Tanaka as his Game 3 starter.
"Deliberated on that, obviously, a lot over the last several days," Boone said. "Just felt like slotting Deivi in between [Gerrit] Cole and Masa was the way we wanted to go."
Boone did not rule out using Garcia for a shortened outing and then bringing in a lefthander — J.A. Happ or Jordan Montgomery — as a "piggyback" pitcher against the Rays, who platoon at multiple positions.
"It could be," Boone said. "We’ll just kind of see how it’s rolling. We’re in a sort of all-hands-on-deck kind of situation now, even though we’re just getting started in the series. We’ll do what we’ve got to do to try and win ballgames."
Boone did not name a starter for a potential Game 4 or 5. The best-of-five series will be played in five days if it goes the distance.
Garcia was 3-2 with a 4.98 ERA in his six starts — none of which came against Tampa Bay — but the righthander pitched better than his ERA suggests.
"When he came up and got his opportunity, he was by and large terrific," Boone said. "He just has that way about him, that demeanor about him. He’s not real affected by a real successful outing or an outing where he struggles.’’
Garcia’s ERA is inflated because of his only bad start, when he allowed six runs in three innings on Sept. 20 in Boston. The rookie came back six days later and beat the Marlins in a game the Yankees needed to help with their playoff seeding. Garcia was charged with four runs in 6 2⁄3 innings against Miami.
"I think the way he’s pitched, one, and the way he’s handled himself and handled every situation so far, I just felt like a lot of good options there, ways we could have gone," Boone said. "But Deivi’s shown that I don’t worry about him not being able to handle it mentally, emotionally and all those things. And, hopefully, I know he’s looking forward to it."
No surprise here: He is.
"Super-excited when they finally told me that I was going to get the ball for Game 2," Garcia said through an interpreter. "What can I say? Just so excited about it. At the same time, very thankful for the opportunity."
Garcia, who made his big-league debut on Aug. 30, said he feels up to the enormous task.
"It’s been a journey of preparing myself and doing everything I can to improve as a player and keep improving every day," he said. "I was hoping for an opportunity to get into a game like this."
Tanaka last pitched on Wednesday in Game 2 of the wild-card series in Cleveland. He was charged with six runs in four innings in the Yankees’ series-ending 10-9 victory.
Tanaka was not effective, but he also clearly was hampered by MLB’s decision to delay the game because of rain in the forecast (which did not immediately come), then have him pitch in the bottom of the first in a driving rainstorm, and then delay the game again.
Tanaka should have no such weather issues on Wednesday in idyllic San Diego. Overall, he has a postseason record of 5-3 with a 2.70 ERA.
"I feel good about a lot of the ways we could have gone," Boone said. "I feel great about Happ and Monty. But just felt like slotting Deivi in in that Game 2 between Cole and Masa was something that we liked."
What specifically does he like about it?
"I don’t want to get too, real specific," Boone said. "I’ve felt like we had a lot of good ways to go."