“That level of competition brings out the best in me,” were the words 21-year-old Deivi Garcia chose after being named the Yankees’ youngest-ever postseason starter, one who will debut against the Tampa Bay Rays for ALDS Game 2 on Tuesday night.
Following Monday night’s statement win in San Diego, Garcia will seek to put the Yankees ahead 2-0 against Tampa in his unprecedented role as family and friends watch from his native nation of the Dominican Republic.
The right-handed rookie, who went 3-2 in six games — totaling 34.1 innings — this year also takes the usual rotation spot of Masahiro Tanaka, who braved the elements in Cleveland and helped the Yankees advance to the ALDS last week.
“We deliberated on that a lot obviously over the last several days,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “I don’t worry about him not being able to handle it, mentally, emotionally and all those things, and hopefully, I know he’s looking forward to it.”
Garcia said he’s been hoping for the chance to “get into a game like this at this level,” adding that past miscues made in 2020 were crucial teaching moments.
“There’s always something to learn from it… and I think that’s something that I’ve been able to do throughout my career,” he said.
As far as getting a start on such a big stage, Garcia spoke to an attitude of responsibility displayed inside the Yankees’ clubhouse – one which played a role in his preparation.
“Being around the guys here and learning every day, you start to understand that there is a chance that you might get into a game,” he said. “And you might have to assume the responsibility of taking the ball.”
The Yankees skipper spoke to Garcia’s mental maturity and levelheadedness, which Boone described as being unique to that of the average 21-year-old rookie.
Composure remains constant through both good and bad outings; referencing a poor exhibition outing Garcia had against the Philadelphia Phillies, the manager said, “he didn’t look very good, but was unaffected.”
Addressing the game at hand, Garcia said he doesn’t see an edge by not having faced Tampa during the regular season.
“They’re going to be competing, I’m going to be competing I’m not going to be thinking about having an advantage because they haven’t seen me pitch, for me it’s about executing and doing the best I can,” Garcia said.
On the year, the youngster posted a 4.98 ERA with 33 strikeouts, 35 hits, and only six walks.
Boosting the youngster’s already palpable confidence, Yankees ace and Game 1 winner Gerrit Cole left Garcia with this advice for his October debut: “just be yourself.”