Yanks’ Germán cheered in return, struggles vs Blue Jays

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Domingo German

New York Yankees starting pitcher Domingo German (55) winds up during the first inning of a baseball game against the Toronto Blue Jays, Sunday, April 4, 2021, at Yankee Stadium in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

NEW YORK (AP) — Domingo Germán was cheered by Yankees fans in his return from a domestic violence suspension but struggled against the Toronto Blue Jays, allowing three runs over three innings in New York’s 3-1 lossSunday.

Germán hadn’t pitched since Sept. 18, 2019, due to an 81-game ban under Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy after an alleged incident involving his girlfriend, with whom he has at least one child.

“It was very exciting to be back on a major league mound and compete,” Germán said via translator. “I wanted to stay calm and take it all in. Definitely had some issues in the game today, but overall, exciting.”

The 28-year-old was applauded by fans in right field after he bolted out of the dugout for warmups about 35 minutes before first pitch — he pointed and acknowledged them as he sprinted by. He got more cheers from the virus-restricted, sellout crowd of 10,066 after completing a 12-pitch first inning.

The right-hander allowed a solo homer to Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and a two-run shot to Randal Grichuk in the second, repeatedly leaving the ball up in the strike zone on an afternoon with a 59-degree temperature at gametime. He needed 34 pitches to get out of the inning.

He labored through 22 more pitches in the third but escaped without further damage and was replaced by Michael King to start the fourth.

Germán was charged with four hits, a walk and a wild pitch while striking out two.

“Just a couple mistakes, they made him pay,” manager Aaron Boone said. “Just not overall as sharp with some of his secondaries.”

Germán returned to the team this spring training after being away for all of the 2020 season. He attended mandatory counseling while suspended and said he benefited.

He publicly apologized for the incident early in camp but refused to discuss the events that led to his ban. Germán also addressed teammates in group and individual settings.

The Yankees welcomed his return — but with some wariness.

“We have his back,” slugger Luke Voit said in February. “But he’s skating on thin ice.”

Germán was a breakout contributor before his ban in 2019, going 18-4 with a 4.03 ERA. On the field, he picked up where he left off this spring, locking up the No. 3 spot in New York’s rotation by allowing two runs in 13 innings. He struck out 17 and walked one in four spring training starts, but he lacked that sharp command Sunday.

“A long baseball season, you’re going to have bad outings, you’re going to have good outings and you’re going to have ones like today that aren’t as polished,” Germán said. “You can’t let that rattle you.”

Yankees manager Aaron Boone wasn’t sure how New York fans would greet Germán and said the team hadn’t discussed it with him. Either way, he expected Germán to take it in stride.

“Obviously with what he’s been through, there’s going to be probably some polarizing reactions at times, and you’ve got to deal with that,” Boone said. “And he will.”

King followed Germán with six scoreless innings of one-hit ball. King retired his final 15 batters, baffling Toronto with a five-pitch mix. He walked one and struck out three on 68 pitches. He is the first Yankees reliever with at least six innings and no or one hit since Bob Shirley on Sept. 21, 1986.

“He’s put himself in a good spot to be a real contributor,” Boone said of the 25-year-old.

NOTES: CF Aaron Hicks struggled in the lineup’s No. 3 spot all series, going 1 for 12 with seven strikeouts. Boone said he routinely considers shuffling the lineup and might move Hicks around, but also said he wasn’t concerned about the 31-year-old.

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