It’s certainly not the way that the Colorado Rockies wanted their closer to go out, but time and health waits for no one in baseball … and it looks as though the time is up for Rafael Betancourt.
Well, at least that’s what it looked like when the veteran right-hander was forced to leave the game with two outs in the team’s 5-4 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies on Thursday, anyway. The 18-pitch outing led to the Rockies second-straight loss thanks to blown saves from Betancourt, although you’d have to imagine that the actual loss of the ninth-inning man is perhaps more of a concern.
… if anything else, for sentimental reasons anyway.
The fact is that even before he was diagnosed with a sprained elbow and scheduled for an MRI to test the extent of the damage, the Rockies were ready to move on in the 38-year-old ninth inning man.
They’ve been nowhere near a spot to compete, and if the team’s decision to put the righty on waivers didn’t already tell you, his $4.25 million option in his age-39 season wasn’t going to be picked up — not after two previous trips to the DL in the midst of a down year that’s seen him pitch just 28.2 innings with a four-year high 3.45 BB/9 and a career-high (PITCHf/x era) velocity dip to a 90.1 mph average.
So even if his looming third trip doesn’t quite end his 2013 season for the Rockies, I think it’s fair to say that his career — at least in the mile-high city — is drawing to a close.
Besides, all that down time has given the team a plenty long look at the longtime heir apparent in the form of Rex Brothers, and the lefty has given the team plenty to like about what they see. Owner of 11 handshakes already, Brothers is still having his share of trouble with walks, though it is worth pointing out that his 4.19 BB/9 is the lowest in his career.
That, coupled with a .194 BAA thanks in part to a strong 17.9 line drive rate and 15.2 percent pop-up rate allowed, has allowed him to ride a .252 BABIP and a 94 percent strand rate (thanks, baseball gods) to a 1.51/1.16 ERA/WHIP over 53.2 innings for the season.
Barring a late-season meltdown (and Rockies fans know Brothers has had a penchant for meltdowns) it should be good enough to earn him the ninth-inning role next season, even as a lefty.
Ideally, the Rockies would have been able to ship Betancourt off to a contender for the veteran’s swansong, but saying goodbye can be the hardest thing … and you know, the unfortunate injury might just end up being the push that the team needed to do it for good — whether it ends up being as serious as it looks or not.