Domingo Germán was one of the Yankees’ most dominant pitchers this spring, breezily outpacing his competition for a rotation spot. His first seven innings of the regular season have not been as impressive, and after watching another two homers leave the yard on Saturday, the right-hander was optioned to the club’s alternate site.

Continuing a homer-prone trend that dates back to 2019, Germán surrendered long balls to Austin Meadows and Randy Arozarena, lasting four innings in his second start since returning from suspension. The Yankees’ bats offered no support, held silent by six Rays hurlers during a 4-0 loss on Saturday afternoon at Tropicana Field.

“I’m definitely not pleased with the results that I’ve gotten these two outings,” Germán said through a translator. “One of the things I wanted to do is be more aggressive in the zone. Tampa is a good hitting team. They understand the strike zone very well. I’ve got to look at the tape and make the necessary adjustments for the next outing.”

It is unclear when that will take place. Germán pitched to a 1.38 ERA over 13 splendid spring frames, and he was rewarded with the No. 3 slot in the rotation. Other contenders for the job, including right-handers Deivi García and Michael King, could not argue when they were assigned to Triple-A and the bullpen, respectively.

Yet manager Aaron Boone has said that he believes the Yankees will need more than five starters this season — in fact, Boone has said that he expected to insert a sixth starter at times in April, though they have not done so yet. García and King would both be candidates for those assignments.

“Spring Training and the regular season are just different,” Germán said. “I do feel really good [physically]. That’s how it goes; hitters make adjustments. Then it is up to us as pitchers to make adjustments.”

Tampa Bay collected four runs and eight hits off Germán, who tossed 79 pitches after throwing 68 in three innings against the Blue Jays last time out. Meadows clanged a first-inning drive off the right-field foul pole and Francisco Mejía knocked in a couple of runs with a second-inning grounder that struck Germán’s glove and deflected toward the outfield.

Arozarena ambushed Germán’s first pitch of the third inning for a 420-foot homer to straightaway center field. Since the beginning of 2019, Germán has allowed 34 homers in 150 innings, the Majors’ fourth-highest HR/9 rate (min. 140 IP) over that span.

“He fills up the strike zone, which we love,” Boone said. “He’s going to go after guys and really commands his pitches. It’s usually not a lot of free passes with him. You can certainly live with some solo shots here and there. Overall, I don’t feel like he’s far off from really dialing in a good one. I think [the home runs] are just a product of filling up the strike zone as much as he does.”

Germán’s lack of length could tax a bullpen that combined for four scoreless innings on Saturday, paced by Jonathan Loaisiga, who has retired 18 of the 22 batters he faced this season. Right-hander Corey Kluber recorded only seven outs in his start on Friday, and Boone said that the club will discuss adding a fresh reliever for Sunday’s game.

Bats all, folks
The Yankees were unable to move runners despite an early exit by right-hander Chris Archer, who lasted 2 1/3 innings in his first start since Aug. 20, 2019, before leaving with right lateral forearm tightness. Tampa Bay has placed Archer on the injured list.

Aaron Judge went 1-for-4 with a 112.9 mph single in his return to the lineup after missing the last two games with soreness in his left side. Gio Urshela went hitless in three at-bats after missing a game following a reaction to the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, which he received on Wednesday.

“We just couldn’t muster enough,” Boone said. “The couple of opportunities we had, we couldn’t cash in. As a group, we’ve got to start getting it rolling.”

Gift of grab
The Yankees’ defense has shown room for improvement — catcher Gary Sánchez committed a fourth-inning throwing error on a pickoff attempt and Urshela booted a fifth-inning grounder, though the third baseman also made a nifty throw from the seat of his pants in the fifth.

Brett Gardner was one of the bright spots on Saturday. Playing left field, Gardner raced 127 feet into the left-center-field gap in the fourth inning to steal an extra-base hit from Meadows. Statcast measured it as a four-star catch, noting that Gardner’s sprint speed was 29.5 feet/second — just a tick below the “elite” rating of 30 feet/second. The MLB average is 27 feet/second.

“I had to run a long way for it,” Gardner said. “I did lose it for a second in the roof. I’ve obviously played a lot of games here, and I feel pretty comfortable out there for the most part, so I was able to pick the ball back up, thank goodness. Decent play, but ultimately I’m just frustrated with the way that we played, coming out on the losing end.”