The Yankees' Deivi Garcia throws batting practice during spring training...

The Yankees' Deivi Garcia throws batting practice during spring training at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Fla., on Saturday. Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

TAMPA, Fla. — Among those throwing live batting practice sessions Saturday at Steinbrenner Field was Deivi Garcia, a one-time top pitching prospect who made his big-league debut to much acclaim in 2020 but who has mostly struggled since.

Garcia, 23, is in camp this year with none of the hype that used to surround him — hype that,  because of his slim physique, included comparisons to Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez.

“The key for him is going to be able to command the strike zone at a high level. That’s going to allow him to have success in the big leagues,'' Aaron Boone said. "And then also continuing to improve his arsenal against lefthanded hitters. That’s something that last year got him into trouble.”

The 5-9, 163-pound Garcia finished 3-2 with a 4.98 ERA in six starts in 2020 and started two big-league games in 2021, going 0-2 with a 6.48 ERA.

Much of the righthander’s success in the minors before his big-league debut resulted from an at-times devastating repertoire that was heavily dependent on his fastball and curveball. But rival scouts who cover the Yankees’ system have noted Garcia’s difficulty incorporating the slider that the organization wanted him to use more and more. Garcia posted a 6.85 ERA in the minors in 2021 and a combined 6.89 ERA last year in stints with Double-A Somerset and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

“He’s got the ability to spin the ball,” Boone said. “The cutter’s an important pitch for him. I thought he did some good things out there today. The stuff was there. Finished strong as far as life in the zone with the fastball. But for him, it’s really, because he does have a unique delivery, it’s maintaining that delivery and the consistency of it to allow him to throw strikes at a high level. It’s going to allow him to succeed at the upper levels of the minor leagues and certainly in the big leagues. And that’s been something that’s been inconsistent for him.”

Another step toward Opening Day

Boone said report day for the full squad, which is Sunday, always fills him with additional enthusiasm.

“Getting the group in and knowing it’s the start of the grind, the grind that I think we all live for and love, and the excitement I know all of our guys have about our team and what we can potentially be,” Boone said. “There's that excitement that exists here these last few days, being with our pitchers and catchers, but there's no question, getting our full team here and right away starting to just build that camaraderie, build that culture and build that team, that's always something you look forward to. Certainly I do.” 

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