Prospect Dellin Betances knows what it’s like to pitch in the Show. He also knows what it’s like to get roughed up by big league hitters.
In 2011, his first call-up to the New York Yankees lasted 2.2 innings, during which he posted a 6.75 ERA. After struggling with command, he was moved to the bullpen at the start of 2013, where he dominated for triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (84 innings pitched, 2.68 ERA, 1.119 WHIP, 108 strikeouts). His performance earned him a September call-up but again, he struggled, allowing six earned runs in five innings pitched.
Despite his past setbacks, the 26-year-old entered Spring Training with a chance to make the major league roster as a reliever — and he sure has taken advantage of the opportunity. In 10.1 innings pitched, he’s posted a 0.87 ERA and a 0.774 WHIP with nine strikeouts.
I know what many of you are thinking: “it’s Spring Training, he’s facing scrubs!” I wouldn’t call Jose Bautista a scrub, though Betances made him look like one on Sunday. The 6-foot-8 right-hander entered the game with one out and the bases loaded. He proceeded to strike out Joey Bats on a knee-buckling curveball and got Edwin Encarnacion (another slouch) to fly out to left.
By retiring two of the best hitters in the game back-to-back in an extremely high-pressure situation, Betances demonstrated the talent and more importantly, the nerve to be a successful major league reliever. These games may not count towards the team’s win-loss column, but they’re no less important to individual players as they prepare for the upcoming season. That is, Bautista and Encarnacion approached those at-bats with the same intensity as the regular season.
Betances put out the fire and put an exclamation point on an outstanding Spring Training. It should have clinched him a spot in the Yankees’ bullpen.