Yankees: Is starting Deivi Garcia in ALDS Game 2 the right move?


The Yankees announced young right-hander Deivi Garcia will start Game 2 of the ALDS.

The New York Yankees-Tampa Bay Rays ALDS matchup is the first time these two teams have met in the postseason, and fans are in for a treat because the division rivals have been going at it all year long on the field and through the media with constant verbal barbs.

After taking Game 1 behind Gerrit Cole’s arm and a barrage of home runs to the tune of a 9-3 win, the Yankees have decided rookie Deivi Garcia will start Game 2 on Tuesday night. Manager Aaron Boone made the announcement on Monday, which now leaves Masahiro Tanaka to start Game 3 on Wednesday.

But is this the right decision? We understand that the Yankees have a 1-0 lead and were able to rest most of their bullpen on Monday, giving them plentiful options if Garcia were to falter, but this just feels like playing for the series going the distance. Why not go for the jugular and potentially put Tampa in an 0-2 hole, especially with how good Tanaka is in October?

On top of that, Garcia has made just 12 appearances in Double-A and 11 in Triple-A (splitting that time as a starter and reliever). A 3.53 ERA in Trenton and a 5.40 mark in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre will hardly get any prospect time in the majors.

But the pandemic season is different, and it paved the way for the young-right hander, who made six starts in his debut season to the tune of a 3-2 record with a 4.98 ERA, which jumped up after two lackluster outings to finish the year. In 2020, he faced the Mets, Blue Jays, Orioles, Red Sox and Marlins, and gave up four runs or more against Baltimore, Boston and Miami.

Then again, he shined by shutting down the Mets in his official debut and halting the Yankees’ ugly losing streak with an impressive road start in Buffalo against the Jays. And if you watched all of his starts, he only really got shelled against Boston. His outing against the O’s went into the trash can when Boone called on Clarke Schmidt to make his MLB debut with runners on in a tight game, and the Marlins managed those runs off him on insanely soft contact before he settled down.

The Yankees and their fans are incredibly excited about this kid’s future, and understandably so. The strategy here, while on the surface seems a bit head-scratching, actually makes a ton of sense. Garcia has already technically handled “big games” this year — every time he stepped on the mound the Yankees really needed a win. Every game counted with all the injuries they had.

Plus, it’s much better for the 21-year-old’s nerves to be pitching in a game that isn’t a must-win (or has a must-win feel) on the playoff stage (a swing game in a 1-1 series or a do-or-die outing on an 0-2 hole). Now, he’ll be able to go out there and be himself because the Yankees have the luxury with a 1-0 series lead, and it’ll be like he’s playing with house money.

He’s got an entire rested bullpen behind him in case things go wrong, including the potential of someone like Jordan Montgomery (or JA Happ?) as an innings-eating piggyback and an antidote to a lefty-heavy lineup, which the Rays could employ against Garcia. If he loses the game? Whatever. The Rays are the ones under pressure here because they have to avoid an 0-2 hole. Garcia should be able to go through the motions without having to worry.

Let any pressure fall on Tanaka or Cole, who will presumably start Games 3 and 5. Put the young guy in a position to succeed with all of the intangible factors in his favor, and you seemingly have a recipe for success. That’s why it’s the right decision.