Betancourt wants to prove he can pitch

Betancourt wants to prove he can pitch

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Like in so many years past, right-handed reliever Rafael Betancourt has a locker at Rockies camp. But unlike those past years, he doesn't have a guaranteed spot in the Rockies' bullpen.

Betancourt, who has pitched exclusively for Colorado since being traded from Cleveland on July 23, 2009, is coming off the Tommy John surgery that held him out of game action all last season. Now with a clean bill of health, he's back as a non-roster invitee fighting for a place in the 'pen.

"Even when I had a guaranteed contract, I would never come here and take any day for granted," Betancourt said. "I always try to come here and be the same person every time. Now it's a different situation, because I just got invited to Spring Training, and what I have to show is that I'm healthy. That's the most important thing. The other stuff will come along, and all I have to do is pitch. The other things, I'm not really concerned. All I need to do is prove I'm healthy and prove I can pitch."

Betancourt has made his career as a late-innings reliever and has saved 55 games over his last three seasons, though that role now belongs to LaTroy Hawkins. But when healthy, Betancourt averaged 60-plus appearances per season.

He tore his ulnar collateral ligament in late August 2013 and had surgery shortly thereafter. The team declined a $4.25 million option on him after last season, but he wanted an opportunity to stay.

After giving up a run on three hits in an inning of work on Tuesday, Betancourt has given up four hits in his two Cactus League appearances this spring while striking out two.

"I think the hardest part was last year, when [I had] four months without throwing, just rehabbing," Betancourt said. "And then you start playing catch and you have to follow a throwing program every time you do it. It's kind of weird. Even when I started pitching in Minor League games last year, it was hard. Recovery time was tough. It was painful every time.

"But I just want to prove I can pitch, and if that pain's going away, I know I can."

Joey Nowak is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @joeynowak. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.