Betancourt gaining strength after 'pen session

Betancourt gaining strength after 'pen session

HOUSTON -- Rockies reliever Rafael Betancourt was sweaty but energetic Tuesday morning. It sure beat the way he had felt for more than a month.

Betancourt had thrown his second bullpen session since going on the 15-day disabled list last week with what the team announced was a sinus infection and vertigo symptoms. The 40-year-old right-hander explained that he was so congested in his head and resonating areas of his face that he had a hard time recovering from activity, couldn't maintain balance and had greatly diminished endurance.

"Almost every year I deal with sinus stuff," Betancourt said. "But this time was very bad. Since late April, I was feeling kind of weird. Some [congestion] came out -- that was during the doubleheader we had with Arizona at home [May 6]. Then we went on the road and my body started feeling icky -- like, weak."

His issues worsened. Even in Cincinnati, when he escaped a bases-loaded, one-out jam in 5-2 victory, he said, "I was out of energy. I always did my stuff, running and working out. Any time I did that, I was like, 'Not today.' The whole game I was fighting mentally."

It became a performance issue when Betancourt gave up a home run and a four-pitch walk at Philadelphia on May 30 and was removed. He was on strong antibiotics at the time, and he had been told by a doctor that they were working against his energy level.

"Honestly, I didn't know what I was doing," Betancourt said. "I was just throwing the ball to nobody, not the catcher or the hitter."

Betancourt pitched in both games of a June 2 doubleheader against the Dodgers. He retired the only hitter he faced in the first game, but had to cover first base on a grounder and struggled to do so. In the nightcap, he gave up a decisive grand slam to Alex Gonzalez. Four days later, he gave up three runs and five hits in one inning against the Marlins. Betancourt demonstrated uncharacteristic frustration, mainly because his physical problems were so foreign to him. He was placed on the DL the next day, although it was difficult to admit to manager Walt Weiss that his sinus infection was the root of the problem.

"I told him, 'If I'm going to pitch like this, I'd just as soon go home,'" Betancourt said. "I didn't want to come in and tell him I can't pitch because I don't feel good, that I'm sick."

But Betancourt said with rest, the infection is clearing and he feels stronger. Both bullpen sessions were in the range of 44 pitches and there have been no problems. He'll face hitters at Coors Field on Friday and is eligible to return June 23, but there is no timetable.

Worth noting

• Weiss said he considered going with Carlos Gonzalez as a pinch-hitter with one out and two on in the ninth inning of Monday's 6-3 loss to the Astros. Instead, he stuck with Rafael Ynoa, who had some good at-bats earlier. Ynoa grounded into a game-ending double play.

"I thought about it," Weiss said. "I thought Raffy was a tough out, and I wanted to extend the inning there. I thought about using CarGo in a couple of different spots in that last inning, but I decided against it.

"In retrospect, I'd do a lot of different things over the course of a year. That's kind of how it works. It's certainly a viable option there."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, and like his Facebook page, Thomas Harding and Friends at www.Rockies.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.