MOOSIC – In 2011, Dellin Betances was ranked at the top of New York Yankees prospects lists by several outlets and even made his Major League debut.
Expectations were high for the 6-foot-8, 260-pound, right-handed pitcher who began the 2012 season with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. But as he struggled last season with an ERA over 6.00 in Triple-A, he was demoted to Double-A Trenton. He showed some flashes of getting back to top prospect form for the Thunder, so he got another crack with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 2013.
The 25-year-old has had some problems this season for the RailRiders, but three of his six starts – including two of his last three – were very respectable. He said that after his last start on May 5 — which was five no-hit innings — he learned that the organization was thinking about moving him to the bullpen.
Then after not being listed to start for the RailRiders during his scheduled turn in the rotation, he officially got word Friday that he would be moving to the bullpen.
“I was a little upset because I felt like I was getting better,” Betances said. “But at the same time, I understand the decision is coming from up top and I just have to do what I have to do to make myself better. If it was up to me, I would love to start. But at the same time, I understand certain decisions have to be made and, hopefully, the bullpen is something that works for me and I can get more reps — so that will be cool.”
Betances then pitched out of the bullpen for just the fourth time in his career as a pro Friday night. And while he was disappointed and caught off guard, he didn’t disappoint. He worked 2 1/3 scoreless innings, only allowing a walk and striking out three in a steady, heavy rain. He was even looking relaxed and having fun, fielding a groundball in between the mound and first base, then running to the bag himself for the last out he recorded in the outing.
“I try to enjoy myself because sometimes this game is hard, so you have to try to appreciate it every time you go out there,” Betances added. “I just thank the Lord for every opportunity I get. It’s just one of those things that when I have fun I feel like I’m at my best but at the same time I try to focus especially in situations like this.”
There are certainly more positives for Betances, who was drafted in the eighth round in 2006 out of Grand Street Campus High School in Brooklyn and grew up a Yankees fan. New York closer Mariano Rivera was a starter in the minors. He even started 10 games for New York in 1995. But things didn’t exactly work out for him in that department. And now, he’s likely a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
A move to the pen may be perfect for Betances. He has always been watched closely by the organization so that he wouldn’t get overworked after having Tommy John surgery in 2009 and has never pitched more than 131 innings in a season. Most successful Major League starters will throw about 200 innings every season.
“For me as a starter, you don’t go real aggressive, especially early on. For me as a reliever, you come in and the adrenaline is going,” the pitcher added. “It’s definitely different and the velo (velocity) is going to be more consistent. I’m just going out there to try to throw strikes. That’s the key and keep working as much as I can to stay consistent.”
New York general manager Brian Cashman told the New York Post that the move was necessary because the team is looking ahead to 2014, and Betances is out of options. So if he’s not on the Major League roster next season, he will be exposed to waivers and could be lost to another organization. He said the club still thinks highly of the prospect.
“As a starter, he pitches at 92-96. Maybe in the pen, he can pitch at 96 and top out at 100. Who knows? He is healthy. He still has a high ceiling,” the GM said. “Every reliever is a failed starter. Mariano Rivera is a failed starter. He is going to the Hall of Fame, but he is a failed starter. We will see what we have here.”