Dellin Betances didn’t pitch at all on Tuesday, but when Joe Girardi was determining who he had available out of his bullpen on Wednesday, he basically used a mental asterisk: Betances would be available, but for one out only.
“We just used him a lot lately,” Girardi explained.
For Dave Robertson, the rule was kind of the opposite. Although it was only a few weeks ago that Girardi said he didn’t want to use Robertson for more than four outs, on Wednesday, Girardi brought Robertson into the game for four outs in a non-save situation.
“He didn’t pitch yesterday and we had a day off tomorrow,” Girardi said. “So I thought, if I need him, I’m going to use him for four outs.”
It was the third time in the past two weeks that Robertson was called on for four outs.
“It’s more out of need,” Girardi said. “It’s not something I necessarily want to do, but you work it around off days and what you have, and we’re just kind of forced to do it. The first time I didn’t do it, it was kind of early with him coming back from the leg injury and I didn’t want to push him. But with the off day tomorrow, I felt like I could do it.”
This is Girardi attempting to balance safety against necessity. He realizes that he’s used Betances and Adam Warren quite a bit this early in the season, but he’s also dealing with a rotation that ranks 23rd in baseball in terms of innings pitched. Starters aren’t necessarily going deep into games, the go-to long relievers have been shoved into the rotation, and two late-inning relievers have already spent time on the disabled list.
“There are certain days where you’re like, I could pitch, but I’d rather not just because of the way your arm feels,” Warren said. “Joe’s been great at that. He kind of reads it to see how we feel, and he’ll sort of take the decision out of our hands, because we want to go out there and compete. If we’re not 100 percent, it doesn’t matter. We want to go out there and pitch. But he usually takes that out of the equation and says, ‘You’re down today.’ It helps me because we all want to pitch all the time.”
Robertson said he felt fine with last night’s 30 pitches (the most he’d thrown all year). Warren said he hasn’t had a day when his arm’s felt nearly as exhausted as it did the days after a start or a long relief outing last year. Betances said he’s confident in his workout program and has no real concern that his early workload could catch up to him later in the year.
“No, my arm feels good,” Betances said. “Ever since I got moved to the bullpen, my arm is recovering well. Even last year, I probably didn’t go back-to-back much, but I was in there three innings at times from the bullpen, and I was able to recover well. I’ve got a good shoulder program and routine that I do. It keeps me fresh every time.”
Girardi is trying to make sure that remains the case. Betances told Girardi he could pitch on Tuesday, but Girardi refused to use him. Betances said he had no restrictions on Wednesday, but Girardi put his own restrictions in place.
“There’s time you just have to give guys days off,” Girardi said. “That’s all you have to do. I’m trying to do that. I don’t think I used Adam for a couple of days before (last night), and maybe some of these guys will need a couple of days here (after the road trip). We’ll have to wait and see.”
Some of this problem will surely be eased by Shawn Kelley’s expected return from a lower back injury. So far Robertson is on track for a smaller innings workload than he’s used to. For Betances and Warren, the workload is completely different from what they’ve done in the past. Neither has spent a full season in a role like this.
“It’s a different kind of tiredness and soreness that I’m used to,” Warren said. “It’s a lot easier to deal with (now), instead of feeling like a train ran over your arm. There are some days you’re not 100 percent, but it’s more managing when you throw and just taking care of your arm.”
Associated Press photos