CLEARWATER, Fla. — Deivi Garcia was just 16 years old when he first heard the comparisons to Pedro Martinez.
He was young, right-handed and short in stature, and Garcia said his teammates initially brought up his likeness to the Hall of Famer.
Even current bench coach — and acting manager — Carlos Mendoza heard them.
“Obviously, he’s a small guy and everybody was talking and comparing him to Pedro Martinez,’’ said Mendoza, who saw Garcia at the Yankees’ complex in the Dominican Republic not long after the team signed him. “I was like, ‘Really, we’re dropping Pedro Martinez on him at this age?’ ”
Garcia — listed at 5-foot-9 and 163 pounds — showed flashes of excellence after being called up last season, as he did in his major league debut, when he tossed six innings of one-hit, shutout ball against the Mets on Aug. 30.
Garcia doesn’t turn 22 until May, and Mendoza and the Yankees are more concerned about his development than in whether he turns into an all-time great.
This spring, he’s trying to earn a spot in the rotation and he showed in his spring debut Thursday why he has a chance.
In two innings in a 15-0, eight-inning loss to the Phillies at BayCare Ballpark, Garcia allowed a pair of homers, but was otherwise encouraged by the 27-pitch outing, which included three strikeouts.
“I felt really good,’’ Garcia said through an interpreter. “I felt very comfortable with all my pitches. I did miss with two pitches and paid the consequences.”
Those shots came from Scott Kingery in the first and Odubel Herrera in the second, but Garcia also got nine swings and misses — thanks in part to a mid-90s fastball and nasty slider.
“I like his demeanor on the mound,’’ Luke Voit said. “It seems like he has a lot of confidence out there and he’s got the ability to pitch in the top of the zone.”
Voit added if Garcia gains more consistency with his off-speed pitches, “I think he’s got the potential to be a pretty good starter in the big leagues.”
In addition to trying to win a spot in the rotation, Garcia is also trying to improve his delivery.
He said he would like to simplify his mechanics and stay on his back leg more to increase his balance.
It’s details like that, among other things, that separate Garcia from some other prospects, according to Mendoza.
“He’s a smart kid and always willing to learn,’’ Mendoza said. “And pretty mature for his age.”
That’s how he was able to deal with the references to Martinez without being overwhelmed.
“He mixed his pitches well at ,’’ Mendoza said. “He has a good feel for pitching. It’s rare at that age, especially in the Dominican Republic. Usually you get those guys and they [just] throw hard. With Deivi, it was different. He’ll talk pitching and has been pretty advanced since we got him.”
And at least one of his similarities to Martinez should serve him well, according to Voit.
“He’s different as a smaller guy,’’ Voit said. “You don’t face too many guys like that. He has a little different [arm] slot and that’s why he pushes the ball to get it elevated in the zone.”