BRONX, N.Y. — Yes, that was Dellin Betances starting for the Yankees in Tampa in their last game of the regular season. It was, if only to New York and none of the other teams involved, a meaningless outing.
For Betances, however, it was somewhat of a predictable one. Well, sort of.
Betances was asked on Trenton Thunder media day, before his season in Double-A had even started, if he thought ending his year in pinstripes was a realistic goal.
“I feel like that’s definitely my dream, to become a New York Yankee, to be able to wear the pinstripes and help them win,” said Betances on April 5th.
“I want to stay there and have a great major league career. I feel like this year, if I do what I have to do as far as being consistent, I feel like I have a good chance of being there.”
Fast forward to early September, and the 6 foot-8 inch tall, hard-throwing righty was summoned to the big leagues for the first time somewhat unexpectedly, despite his status on the 40-man roster.
“After the last game in Scranton, they called a couple guys into the office,” said Betances of finding out his fate.
“I wasn’t expecting that. They mentioned my name, and it was one of those feelings where I didn’t believe it. I didn’t soak it in until I took my flight to California in Orange County. But it’s definitely great to be here, just growing up as a fan and watching these guys play. To wear the same uniform is honestly unbelievable.”
Betances joined the team on the road in Anaheim, but didn’t make his Major League debut until a September 22 appearance at home against the Rays. I spoke to the New York native one day before that debut, and asked him what it meant to him to walk into the Yankees clubhouse and see a jersey with pinstripes and his number on it hanging in a locker that belonged to him.
“Man, I can’t even describe it to you, it’s just great,” he said.
“It’s a great feeling. I’ve been waiting since I got drafted to play here, and now to be up here and to get the chance to watch all these guys go about their work and business, it’s great. I love being here, and I’ve got to just keep working hard so I can get the chance to get back.”
A chance to get back seems very realistic for Betances, even if there were days at Waterfront Park this season when he wasn’t sure if his Media Day prediction would come true. Betances was, at times, absolutely dominant for the Thunder in his 105 1/3 innings. But those 105 1/3 frames came over the course of 21 starts, leaving him just barely averaging five innings per start, which can be directly attributed to lapses in command.
“I always thought I had a chance to come up, especially being on the 40-man roster. That made it a little easier,” he said.
“But still, at the end of the season, it was one of those things that I wasn’t really expecting. There was talk that my innings were up, so I wasn’t expecting it. It did catch me by surprise.”
Something else that caught people by surprise were Betances struggles in Triple-A, as he went 0-3 with a 5.14 ERA in his four starts with Scranton, walking 15 batters in 21 innings of work.
“I had two good starts, and two not so good there,” Betances said.
“It was just like the whole year, up and down. I’m just trying to come out here and do whatever I can do and take whatever I can into the offseason and work hard. Scranton was definitely good as well, and I feel like I learned some things from Scott Aldred, just about how to pitch. I felt great while I was there, but I had a couple bad ones where it was one of those things.”
It wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility, given the unstable nature of the Yankees starting rotation going forward, that Betances may very well have thrown his last pitch in Triple-A. Once again, Betances was asked about the big leagues, and if that was a realistic goal for him come Opening Day in 2012.
“I would love to be back here,” he said.
“I know I have to work hard. This is going to be a big off-season for me. I feel like next year will be a big year for me. I’m anxious, I can’t wait to come back. The season’s not over, but I can’t wait to work hard in the off-season and come back next year and have a great year.”
But a great year — whether it be in Triple-A, the big leagues or elsewhere — won’t happen for Betances without consistency, and his focus this off-season will be to work on improving in that area.
“I feel like that’s one of the things that hurt me this year, just being able to go out there every five days and throw from the same arm slot and release point. I just need to work hard and do a lot of work. I’m going to try to keep throwing twice a week to make sure I have the same release point. I learned a lot this year with my first time in spring training and it being my first full year healthy. It was my goal to pitch the whole year, and I missed a few starts because of a blister, but it wasn’t arm-related. That and to be here. So this has been great.”
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com