For the time being, it sounds unlikely that he’ll actually go.
“It’s doubtful right now,” senior vice president of baseball operations Mark Newman said.
Why did Betances want to play winter ball in the first place? For the repetition. Having long struggled with inconsistency as a minor league starter, Betances made significant strides after moving to the bullpen this season, and he believes the regular work of a reliever is a big reason for the improvement.
“More time on the mound,” Betances said. “Instead of pitching every five days, I’m pitching every other day. I think more time on the mound helped me be more consistent with all my pitches. I think more repetition. I think that’s what helped. I feel like last year I was just mentally drained. No matter what, I felt like I was defeated before the game started. That’s how I felt last year, but this year, a bad game or a good game, I just try to have a fresh memory. Being out of the bullpen helps that too.”
In 24 innings as a Triple-A starter, Betances had a 6.00 ERA with 19 hits, 19 earned runs, 16 walks and 25 strikeouts this season.
In 60 innings as a Triple-A reliever, his ERA was down to 1.35 with 33 hits, 26 walks and a 83 strikeouts. That’s significant improvement across the board. And the Yankees have certainly noticed.
“Starters are so valuable, so we hung with it and hung with it, but finally we had to move him to the pen,” Newman said. “Nobody’s ever argued with the stuff, and he throws it over the plate more often out of the pen. … It happens. (Pitchers) go into relief and think they don’t have to pick as much and use more of the plate.”
The Yankees are encouraged by what they saw from Betances in the second half of this season, and they seem happy to leave it at that. He’ll come into spring training trying to win a spot in the big league bullpen, and because he’ll be out of options next year, it’s essentially a make-or-break opportunity.
In preparation, Betances said he’d like to at least keep playing catch throughout the winter. He won’t bullpens or anything extreme, but Betances said he wants to playing catch “to keep my arm going” and “have that same routine” heading into such a crucial spring training.
“I like what I did last offseason,” Betances said. “And I felt good coming into spring. I didn’t get much of a chance, obviously, just because of the year I had (in 2012), but this year is a big year for me. This is pretty much it. Either I make the team, or I’m with someone else, so I’m definitely looking forward to spring training. … I feel great. I got the chance to come back up here (to the big leagues), and I’m learning a lot. I haven’t had enough experience, but I think next year will be the year.”
Associated Press photo