Blue Jays coaches, players in awe of Yimi García’s early-season dominance: ‘There’s no better bullpen arm in the big leagues right now’

Photo credit:Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Thomas Hall
8 days ago
Toronto Blue Jays right-handed reliever Yimi García is in his dominant era.
Fans, players, coaches and executives alike have been captivated by García’s remarkable start to the 2024 season, which includes a 1.04 ERA and 2.51 FIP with a 34.5-per-cent strikeout-to-walk rate difference across eight relief appearances. He’s also 2-for-2 in save situations thus far, as he helped fill a massive void at the back end of the bullpen during Jordan Romano and Erik Swanson’s IL stints.
Of the 29 batters García has faced, only three have reached base safely, two via hits — including a home run — and the other on a walk. Of the 26 that haven’t reached safely, 11 were retired on strikes.
“Yimi is on a different level right now,” manager John Schneider told The Athletic’s Kaitlyn McGrath.
García is, indeed, on another level this season.
He is striking out hitters at a higher frequency than ever before. He is walking hitters at one the lowest frequencies than ever before. He is allowing the least amount of contact than ever before.
He is also throwing harder than ever before, averaging a career-best 96.9 m.p.h. on his four-seamer — placing it in the 89th percentile to go along with his 96th and 99th percentile strikeout (37.9 per cent) and chase rates (43.1 per cent).
“There’s no better bullpen arm in the big leagues right now,” Chris Bassitt said.
Not only has the stuff on García’s pitches been spectacular, but so has been his pinpoint command. He’s throwing each of his six pitches precisely where he needs them to end up, and having both elements operate simultaneously has allowed him to overwhelm his opposition.
“In person, this might be the best I’ve ever seen anybody throw, honestly,” Tim Mayza replied.
“I’ve been joking around with a few guys that just the way he’s throwing the ball right now, it seems like he could probably go out there with his eyes closed and have an idea of where the ball is going.”
The Blue Jays noticed something was different with García when he arrived for spring training in February. He was noticeably stronger and came in ready to go to work.
If somebody had told you he pitched competitively over the off-season, you probably would have believed them, even though that wasn’t the case.
“It looked like he pitched in winter ball because he was so ready,” pitching coach Pete Walker said.
Walker told McGrath he felt García — in the final season of a three-year, $16-million deal with the Blue Jays — entered this season determined to use some of the criticism he faced for last season’s struggles as motivation in 2024. Early on, that strategy has paid off incredibly.
“It was honestly just a decision that he made. He knows his stuff has always been really good, but I think it’s just a drive and a focus to be exceptional this year,” Walker said. “It really started in spring training and it’s carried right through the season so far.”
One of García’s brightest moments so far came during Toronto’s previous series against the New York Yankees, where he retired the heart of their order — containing Anthony Volpe, Juan Soto, Aaron Judge, Anthony Rizzo and Giancarlo Stanton — consecutively in back-to-back games.
Entering 2024, the hardest pitch García had ever thrown registered at 99.3 m.p.h. — a reading he’s beaten not once but twice this season. He threw a 99.5 m.p.h. heater to Colorado Rockies first baseman Elehuris Montero on April 13, three days after he set a new career-high at 99.8 versus Seattle’s Mitch Haniger.
The 33-year-old can’t explain what’s allowed him to throw harder than ever, a development that’s typically rare for a pitcher in his 10th big-league season.
“To be honest with you, I don’t have a particular reason, I can’t explain it,” García said while speaking through Blue Jays interpreter Hector Lebron. “All I can say is all the work that I put in every day, I guess it’s paying off right now.”
García has been a vital piece of the puzzle for the Blue Jays’ bullpen since he arrived in 2022. He has been a manager’s dream, given his versatile usage in multiple leverage situations. Not to mention, he’s also been a workhorse, logging a team-high 127 innings from ’22-23.
No matter the circumstance, the hard-throwing righty stays ready for whenever his name’s called, and even when it’s not, too.
“He’s just one of those guys that takes the ball. He doesn’t complain,” Walker said. “We communicate with him on how he’s feeling, but he has a willingness to take the ball every day. And I think the other guys see that ability that he has to do that, and that is something that translates and I think the younger guys learn from a guy like him.”
With Romano and Swanson back in the fold, García’s role will likely change, although he’s expected to remain one of Schneider’s primary weapons during high-leverage situations. If there’s a time when someone other than Romano is needed in the ninth, chances are García will be the guy summoned out of the ‘pen.
But there’ll still likely be an element of versatility involved in his usage. If a fire requires extinguishing, whether in the fifth, sixth or seventh, one of the first names discussed as an option to provide relief will undoubtedly be García’s.

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