TAMPA — Forget competing for a spot in the rotation.
Domingo German might be competing with Gerrit Cole to be the ace of the Yankees staff.
The right-hander continued his dominant spring with four more scoreless innings in a 4-2 win over the Phillies on Monday at George M. Steinbrenner Field, striking out six and allowing three hits and a walk.
“He looked really polished,’’ Aaron Boone said of the outing. “You kind of say, ‘That’s a really good pitcher right there. A guy who can do a lot of things on the mound.’ ’’
And it makes it hard to imagine German anywhere but in the Yankees’ rotation to start the season, now that he’s pitched nine shutout innings in three spring starts, with 13 strikeouts and having allowed just five hits and a walk.
But more than that, the Yankees aren’t simply looking to build the best five-man rotation for April. They’re looking for as many pitchers as they can get who can get them to October and help them win in the playoffs.
It’s why they took a chance by signing Corey Kluber after he’d dealt with injuries for the past two seasons and why they traded for Jameson Taillon as he was coming off a second Tommy John surgery.
They’ve clearly targeted a high ceiling over merely finding pitchers to fill innings.
German was in the process of showing how much he could be relied upon late in the year when his 2019 season came to an abrupt end due to the incident with his girlfriend that September which led to his 81-game ban for violating Major League Baseball’s domestic abuse policy.
Since returning to the Yankees this spring, German drew criticism from his teammates for his actions in 2019, but seemingly won at least most of them over by addressing the team early in camp.
“I’m excited to see what he can do,’’ Aaron Judge said Monday. “He’s a big part of this team.”
And on the mound, German looks as good as ever, surprising even Boone.
The manager said the expectations for German were “a little bit unknown” after he sat out all of 2020 and pitched briefly in the Dominican Republic winter league.
“We haven’t had eyes on him or seen him a lot, so not quite sure exactly what to expect,’’ Boone said. “I would say the lack of rust has been impressive. Really, since his first bullpen and every step of the way, he’s been really sharp. This is a really good, experienced pitcher.”
That’s something that can’t be said about Deivi Garcia, who was thought to be German’s main competition for the last spot in the rotation.
The 21-year-old right-hander has also looked good, but German has been at a different level throughout the spring, according to scouts who have seen both.
As Boone said, Garcia has room to grow.
“Do I think he can be a really good big league pitcher right now? Absolutely I do,’’ Boone said. “But is there more development for a 21-22-year-old kid? Of course there is. But that doesn’t mean I don’t think that development can come at the big league level.”
With a little more than two weeks left before Opening Day — and at least three weeks before the Yankees figure to need either of them to start a game in the majors — Boone said it’s a topic he and his staff will “have a lot of conversations about.”
Then he pointed to DJ LeMahieu’s first game as a Yankee in 2019, when LeMahieu spent Opening Day on the bench because, as Boone said, “somebody’s got to sit.”
German’s spot in the rotation is still to be determined. When asked if he considered himself an ace, given his performance this spring, German said through an interpreter, “No, I see myself as a normal baseball player. I just want to keep doing my job and try to win a spot in the rotation. It doesn’t matter which one it is.”