Bases loaded. One out. Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion coming to the plate. Seems fair to wonder whether this was the moment Betances locked up a spot in the Yankees bullpen. He struck out Bautista on four sliders — Bautista slammed his bat when he went down looking — then Encarnacion flied to left. It was an exclamation point on an already impressive spring for Betances.
“Obviously, for me, every time I go out there this spring it means something,” he said, “because I know I’m fighting for a spot. At least, in my eyes I’m fighting for a spot, so I’m just trying to make the best impression I can.”
“Sure does (make an impression),” Joe Girardi said. “It’s pretty good stuff, because those guys aren’t going to give at bats away. And Bautista was slamming his bat down. He never gives anything away.”
Betances has a 0.87 ERA through 10.1 innings this spring. He’s allowed just four hits and four walks while striking out nine. He could be optioned to the minors, but at this point it’s hard to say why the Yankees would want to send him down. With a spot on the 40-man, overwhelming numbers in Triple-A a year ago, and a strong performance this spring, it’s hard to find a good reason not to keep Betances.
“He has had a good spring,” Girardi said. “He threw back to back days; he threw yesterday and he threw today. We have a lot of close competitions here. I have some tough decisions to make.”
Betances was brought out of the bullpen to clean up a mess left by Cesar Cabral (who had been pretty good before allowing a single and two walks this afternoon). Warming up in the bullpen, Betances asked for advice from Triple-A pitching coach Scott Aldred.
“I said, ‘Scotty, what do you think? First pitch offspeed?’” Betances said. “He’s like, ‘Just follow McCann’s game plan. He’s been calling a great game from the start.’ I just tried to go out there and make pitches.”
McCann asked for nothing but sliders against Bautista. Against Encarnacion, the approach was completely different. Four straight fastballs — two bad ones, then two good ones — before Betances went back to the slider for the fly ball that ended the inning.
“I feel good right now,” Betances said. “I feel good the way I’m throwing the ball. (Making the team) is not up to me at the end of the day. For me, I’ve done a good job. There’s more stuff I can improve on, but I feel like I’ve done good. It’s not up to me, at the end of the day. I feel like our whole pitching staff has been pitching great, so I’m ready for whatever.”
Associated Press photo