Despite an inauspicious start, Corey Kluber has been everything the Yankees could have hoped for in the first two months of the season. The former ace and current reclamation project has posted a cool 3.09 ERA with a 3.76 FIP in addition to throwing the first no-hitter by a Yankee since David Cone in 1999. That’s a worthy enough performance for anyone, but it’s especially impressive for a 35-year-old who had started just 8 injury-addled games over the previous two seasons.
Just when we thought the worst was over, those injuries popped up in the backseat like a killer at the end of a horror movie. Kluber left his start early on Tuesday with shoulder tightness and the next day it was announced that he would miss at least two months with a right shoulder strain.
Obviously, this creates a hole in the rotation, and one that might be filled by Deivi García who was scheduled to pitch this weekend in Detroit before the diagnosis of Kluber was revealed. García is a 22-year-old who made a nice first impression in the shortened 2020 season, but has struggled to find consistency in the early goings. Last season, García managed a 4.15 FIP with some uncharacteristic strikeout and walk rates. In 34 1⁄3 innings, the young righty only struck out 22.6 percent of the batters he faced, but he kept his walk rate down to an elite 4.1 percent.
García, though, has never been a command maven. Between Double-A and Triple-A, MLB Pipeline’s 84th overall prospect walked around 11 percent of the batters he faced before making his MLB debut. This season, his command has been even worse. In four starts at Triple-A, García’s walk rate is a sky-high 17.4 percent and things weren’t much better in his lone major league start. García walked three in four innings in a start against Baltimore at the end of April.
Disregarding the results, García’s approach was atypical from what we saw in 2020. Last season, García threw his fastball over 50 percent of the time in every outing, but in Baltimore, his four-seamer accounted for just 38.5 percent of his pitches thrown. This is one four-inning start we’re talking about so take that with a big ole grain of salt, but in addition to upping the usage of his changeup and curveball, he also used his slider more than any of his other secondary pitches which he didn’t do last year either. García has been using his slider more often in the minors, and in 2020, it was the pitch he threw inside the strike zone with the least frequency (just 29.2 percent In Zone%).
García’s command issues might be the inability to repeat his delivery or it they just might be the result of some experimentation gone awry. This weekend, it’ll be interesting to see if he leans more heavily on the fastball which he can more consistently throw in the strike zone or if he continues to go with a slider-heavy approach.
If García doesn’t claim this spot in the rotation, the next likely candidate would be Michael King. King has been decent in the long relief role this season, putting up a 4.01 FIP in 19 1⁄3 innings.
Without Kluber, the Yankees rotation is certainly weaker than it was but still in fine enough shape. As a group, Yankees starters rank third in fWAR at 5.9. Gerrit Cole has, of course, been excellent, and Jordan Montgomery, Domingo German, and Jameson Taillon have all posted solid peripherals. García has the potential to make the Yankees not miss Kluber for the next two months, but it’s uncertain that he’ll reach it immediately.
Kenny Kelly is the managing editor of Beyond the Box Score.