TAMPA — Domingo German made his long-awaited return to the mound and was greeted by a fairly typical reception from the crowd at Steinbrenner Field on Friday afternoon.
In fact, if you didn’t know any better, you’d have no idea it was the right-hander’s first game back from his MLB suspension for violating the league’s domestic violence protocols that cost him all of the 2020 season.
On the mound, German reminded those watching why the Yankees opted to stick with him after his ban was over.
The 28-year-old struck out two of the first three batters he faced in his scoreless, two-inning outing.
“It was exciting to be back on the field and be back with my teammates,’’ German said through an interpreter following his appearance against the Tigers. “I felt relaxed and confident.”
It showed, as German looked sharp, as he struck out four and gave up just a double in his 31-pitch performance.
He said the fans in attendance were “spectacular.”
“I thought I was welcome,’’ German said.
German was cheered after each inning and received just a smattering of boos when he first took the mound before the first inning.
Bench coach Carlos Mendoza — filling in for Aaron Boone after the manager underwent a procedure to install a pacemaker — said he did not speak to German about how to deal with a potential rough reception from the crowd.
“The conversation was, ‘Go out there and be yourself,’ ’’ Mendoza said. “Obviously, he had some adrenaline, some nerves, but he did a good job and handled it well. He went out there and competed. It was good to see.”
German pointed to his stint pitching winter ball in his native Dominican Republic as one of the keys to him being effective in his first major league game action since Sept. 18, 2019 — and his first start since Sept. 6 of that season.
“I’ve been satisfied with the work we’ve done,’’ German said of his ability to stay in shape during his suspension. “Pitching in winter ball gave me the confidence to see I can still compete at a high level. Confidence is big. It put me at ease that I could still compete and find my way back to being the same pitcher I was in 2019.”
That’s when German was 18-4 with a 4.03 ERA and emerged as one of the Yankees’ most consistent pitchers.
He’s now trying to win a spot at the back end of the rotation, and he showed off a lively fastball and a changeup that Mendoza said he used well.
German also impressed Gary Sanchez, who was behind the plate and hadn’t worked with German all spring.
“He was sharp out there,’’ Sanchez said through an interpreter. “I thought he looked great. His changeup was very effective. I saw confidence from him and that’s what I wanted.”
Sanchez said German was “the same guy, the same pitcher, the same Domingo German I saw back in 2019. The quality of pitches was there.”
And Sanchez is optimistic German can focus on pitching and bounce back following the suspension after he apologized to the entire team earlier during camp for his actions.
“By nature, German is a guy who’s always quiet,’’ Sanchez said. “He took the opportunity to speak with us and explain a lot of things that happened. I’m hoping he puts it in the past and moves away from it.”