Dellin Betances tripled his earned run total for the season last night. It was still a pretty good outing, though.
Yes, Betances was charged with two earned runs in an inning and two-thirds — he’d allowed just one earned run before that — but those runs came in the seventh inning when the first hitter reached on an infield single and the second run scored after Betances had already left the game. What truly defined Betances last night was the sixth inning, when he entered with no outs and runners on the corners and got out of it with a couple of strikeouts and a ground ball to shortstop.
“The more and more I pitch, I feel like I’m getting in better (more important) situations,” Betances said. “I’m just going out there every time trying to prove myself and get better every time out. I feel like I’ve been able to do that.”
He’s not the setup man, and he’s certainly not the closer, but Betances seems to be slowly earning Joe Girardi’s trust. That’s what 15.5 strikeouts per nine innings and a 0.98 WHIP will do. Betances is still walking a fair share of batters, but he’s not consistently falling behind in the count, and he’s not struggling to put guys away.
“I feel like I’m getting a lot better at being more aggressive in the zone,” he said. “I’m pleased with the last two outings. Obviously I don’t want to give up any runs or anything, but I feel like they just found holes, you know? … I think I’m just attacking the hitters early, using my fastball and offspeed for strikes. I’ve been getting a lot of strikeouts with my offspeed, but I think it’s getting ahead that has helped me a lot.”
As Betances struggled to find consistency in the minor leagues, I generally argued against the idea of moving him to the bullpen. There was never really a question about his raw stuff — it’s not like he needed shorter outings to help his fastball play up — but his problem seemed primarily to be an inability to consistently throw strikes. My thinking was, if he couldn’t do that as a starter, why would he suddenly be able to do it as a reliever?
But, wouldn’t you know it, that’s exactly what’s happened since Betances converted to the bullpen last season.
“I think out of the bullpen, I feel like it’s a different feeling coming into the game, and that’s helping me,” Betances said. “It’s helping me more than starting, for me. I’m just trying to go out there right off the bat and be aggressive and make pitches. I think that’s helped me a lot.”
In spring training, Betances also cited the repetition of the bullpen as a factor in his improvement. The more often he gets in games, the better he feels. Probably helps, too, that he’s found a breaking ball — more slurve than true curveball — that he can throw in the strike zone and not simply bury for a swing and miss. He can actually use his breaking ball to get ahead in the count, and not simply to put guys away.
Even after a game like last night, when the box score wasn’t perfectly clean, the improvement and impact of Betances has been hard to miss.
“I felt like coming in there (with two on), I felt like that was a big situation and I was able to get out of it with no runs scored,” he said. “I’m comfortable, you know? I’m comfortable in the bullpen, and I’m just trying to go out there and throw strikes and do the job.”
Real quick heads up, we’re going to do a chat tomorrow at noon. After the unexpected day off, seemed like we might as well talk about the team for a little while. Stop by here tomorrow at noon, hang out and chat for a while. I’ll see you then.
Associated Press photo