It was another start on Thursday when Domingo German navigated early struggles and delivered a quality start, going six innings while charged with three earned runs and striking out 10.
This has been the season for the 25-year-old rookie German. After being the emergency fill-in for Jordan Montgomery, who recently underwent Tommy John Surgery, German has been given the reins to be the fifth starter until the Yankees deem otherwise. It was the second start in a row where he faced adversity early on; against the Mets a week before, three runs on two home runs in the first inning were erased by five more shutout innings and nine strikeouts. A first inning, first-pitch home run by Matt Duffy started Thursday’s game on a sour note but when the Yankees won, you couldn’t help but admire the five other valiant innings that showed German’s fortitude as much as his actual skill.
An ERA of 5.23 is unsightly. It’s inflated, perhaps, by the consecutive outings where he gave up six runs against Oakland and Texas. But his repertoire of fastball, curveball, and changeup have flashed the potential to rack up strikeouts while keeping any lineup off-balance. But there’s one area German really needs to learn.
Learn how to pitch
There’s a difference between knowing how to pitch and knowing how to throw the ball.
Often, the latter is fitting for pitchers who feature fastballs with plus-velocity, relying on the fact that a 100 mph pitch is difficult to hit no matter who you are. Location rarely matters, nor do secondary pitches. Velocity keeps hitters honest, though it’s often a double-edged sword.
German isn’t a flamethrower. Sure, his fastball sits at 95mph and can touch 97 while featuring a little movement, but he’s not at all a pitcher who can rely on throwing it down the middle and hoping for the best. It was clear in the first pitch of Thursday’s game; it was a get-me-over fastball, an attempt to sneak one by the fastball-hitting Duffy to start the game on a positive note, and it backfired.
German is young. At 25 years old and experiencing his first taste as an MLB starter, he’s learning what it’s like to face major league hitters, who are the best at what they do. But his three-pitch mix can be just as good as anyone’s; imagine a lesser man’s Luis Severino. The fastball may not be thrown as hard, but features a little more movement; the curveball is slower and not as sharp but features strong downward movement that can be buried in the dirt. But German’s changeup is far better than Severino’s in both consistency, lack of velocity, and fading movement.
But German’s number one pitch has to be his fastball. As soon as he establishes command of that pitch, his secondary pitches become more deadly. Establishing control over the inner third with a 95+ fastball opens the outer third of the plate for his diving and sweeping changeup and curveball. His 63 strikeouts to 53.1 innings pitched have already established him as a strikeout pitcher, but a WHIP of 1.26 is a combination of falling into bad counts that lead to either a walk or a hit. That means more pitches for German to throw in hitter-friendly situations.
German has the potential to be a number three or four starter in the rotation. He’s young, in both age and experience, and it shows. But every negative is lumped with the positive, and every positive is tantalizing enough to imagine what German could become.
And for as long as Montgomery is out and the Yankees fail to bring in another arm either from the system or via trade, the fifth slot in the rotation is German’s. The Yankees’ success allows him to learn on the fly. He has until October to establish consistency and if he can, then the Yankees will have another effective power righty at their disposal.
Whether he sticks in the rotation or is relegated to the bullpen by season’s end remains to be seen, but German has the stuff to be good. Patience is required with him, though, and maybe trust. For each positive, he has taken the negative in stride, showing mental fortitude and thick skin for every mistake made.
Domingo German has a bulldog mentality and if he refines his command and his knowledge of pitching, he can be an important piece for the teams to come.
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