While Deivi Garcia pitched out of the bullpen Saturday for the first time this season, it’s what the Yankees top prospect did — not when he did it — that stood out most.
The 20-year-old right-hander, who signed for $200,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2015, threw five no-hit innings for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, striking out seven and surrendering an unearned run. Despite walking five batters, it represented a third straight solid outing for the 5-foot-9, baby-faced starter, who over the past few months has risen from High-A to the doorstep of the majors, and from fourth to the top of the Yankees’ prospects rankings on MLB.com.
Garcia came in after one inning for Yankees reliever Ben Heller — who underwent Tommy John surgery last year and was making his first rehab start since suffering a right forearm strain this season — and it could portend what’s to come for Garcia.
Earlier this month Yankees GM Brian Cashman said Garcia would come out of the bullpen if called up to the Yankees this season, which could become a possibility when MLB rosters expand to 40 on Sept. 1. It’s unclear, however, whether the RailRiders will continue pitching Garcia out of the bullpen.
The buzz surrounding Garcia took off one night in June when he fanned 15 in six innings, and showings like that earned him a start in the MLB Futures Game in July, where he pitched a 1-2-3 inning and was promoted to the RailRiders shortly thereafter. Because of his small stature and lively stuff, he has drawn comparisons to fellow countryman and Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez and the Mets’ Marcus Stroman.
Cashman said multiple teams were interested in Garcia at the July 31 trade deadline, but the Yankees opted not to deal him for a veteran pitcher to shore up their inconsistent staff.
“What’s not to like?” a scout said. “He’s young with incredible poise. Pitches with a four-pitch mix [mid-90 mph fastball, power curveball, improving changeup and slider], can throw all pitches over the plate. Doesn’t look 20 in his mannerisms. He is impressive to watch.”
With Double-A Trenton this season, Garcia struck out 87 in 11 starts (an impressive 14.6 strikeout rate), along with a 4-4 record and 3.86 ERA.
With his new team, Garcia is 1-3 with a 5.01 ERA in seven games. He has fared better in his last three appearances, pitching to an 0-1 mark with a 2.70 ERA, 16 strikeouts and four earned runs over 13 ¹/₃ innings as he transitions to better competition and a different ball than the one he used while climbing the baseball totem pole.
To prepare Triple-A pitchers for the next level, the league ditched the standard minor league ball for the version many major league pitchers complain was purposely altered before this season to boost home run numbers, a claim commissioner Rob Manfred has repeatedly denied.
Many players say the ball became tighter with lower seams after its manufacturer, Rawlings, was purchased by a private investment firm and MLB in 2018. There have been 2,195 home runs in Triple-A entering Sunday, compared to 1,555 all last season.
Garcia told The Post through an interpreter last week his usually reliable curveball slips out faster than it did in Single-A and Double-A, though he hasn’t been forced to change his grip on the pitch like Masahiro Tanaka has on his trademark splitter.
It is just another hurdle to be overcome, as Garcia has come a long way since thinking he’d make it to the major leagues as a middle infielder.
“I never liked it,” he said of pitching.
But the Yankees brain trust saw his arm in action during a 2015 tryout, and convinced him it was the way to go.
What about coming out of the bullpen in The Bronx in October?
“I’m confident that I could do it,” Garcia said.
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