Never too late: García flashing potential in camp

Former highly touted prospect has new approach as he looks to get on track

March 13th, 2023

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- With injuries piling up much more heavily than Yankees brass would have wanted this spring, plenty of options are on the table as to who will fill those roles.

Right-hander is an arm that was already making a case to crack the Opening Day roster, and now, he could be in line to eat some real innings out of the bullpen as he’s shown renewed stuff this camp.

García worked 3 1/3 innings in Monday afternoon's 1-0 loss against the Twins at Hammond Stadium as he continued to make his case for a roster spot. The 23-year-old allowed just two hits (one being a solo home run to Max Kepler), one run, two walks and struck out two -- including the first batter he saw when manager Aaron Boone called on him to get the last out of the third with a man on.

“I’m feeling good out there,” García said through translator Marlon Abreu after his outing. “Just attacking hitters, making adjustments. You find during the game there are some spots where you want to execute -- so making sure you execute there.”

García posted a 4-5 record with a 6.89 ERA in 64 innings over 20 games (13 starts) last season between Double-A Somerset and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. In 2021, he was the James P. Dawson Award winner, presented annually to the club's top rookie in Spring Training, as voted on by Yankees beat writers.

As for what he thinks has changed from last year to this year, García said he's taking a more aggressive approach and working with the ebb and flow of the game.

“I think the biggest thing is just being more aggressive,” he said. “Making adjustments in necessary moments in the game is very key. And enjoying the game, enjoying the competition. But it’s really about pitching with aggressiveness.”

García has also fine-tuned his cutter, and he is staying away from his curveball a bit more than in past years, especially against left-handed hitters.

“Early in the game today, I used it a lot, mixed with my other pitches, and then later in the game, I started using the changeup,” García said. “You have to change sequences out there.”

García has allowed two earned runs over 7 1/3 innings this spring, while striking out seven batters and posting a 1.09 WHIP. The prospect of being able to break camp with the big league club would be a welcomed challenge for the Dominican Republic native.

“Reality is, every start out here is very important to me,” García said. “Yeah, we [have injuries], but that doesn’t change the way that I want to pitch. I want to keep being aggressive and if I’m able to do that and execute at the same time, that’s really what’s going to allow me to be in the big leagues.”

Boone had nothing but positive things to say about the young righty who isn’t arbitration-eligible until 2026.

“I thought he was really good,” Boone said. “He just kept staying within his delivery and executed. I thought he was really sharp and his stuff was good. It’s been encouraging to see how good his stuff’s been, really, since the start of camp.

“I’m most excited about his fastball -- just the quality of it. I think you can add the cutter to that, cause it’s a ‘let-it-rip’ pitch, too, but just stuff-wise, he’s been so much more crisp and in a better place. He’s throwing fastballs by guys right now, and that’s good to see.”

García does have some Major League experience under his belt, having made eight starts for the Yankees between 2020 and 2021, when he went 3-4 with a 5.27 ERA. Boone is hoping this showing in camp can translate beyond.

“Hopefully, we’re seeing him continue to make these kinds of strides," Boone said, "because it’s exciting to see where he’s at right now physically.”

When asked if García is on track to lock up a roster spot, Boone said: “We’ll see. We’ll see. We’ve got a ways to go still, but the biggest thing is he’s in a pretty good place with where he’s at with his arsenal, with his stuff, and we want to continue to build on that.”