MLB.com Columnist

Barry M. Bloom

Betances ready to shake off tough last few outings

Yankees reliever believes he can get back on track

Betances ready to shake off tough last few outings

NEW YORK -- It wasn't the greatest road trip for Yankees reliever Dellin Betances, but on Monday night he was already ready to shake it off. The 6-foot-8 right-hander is one of the best young pitchers in the Major Leagues.

He knows this. He also knows that practically anywhere else right now he'd be closing instead of setting up behind Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman.

"I'm wearing pinstripes, that's what I'm focused on," Betances said before the Yankees opened an important seven-game homestand against the Angels at Yankee Stadium. "There's over 100 games left so I still think we can do some good things."

Betances is 28 years old and in only his third full season. With 333 strikeouts in 209 2/3 innings, he's whiffed 40 percent of the 827 batters he's already faced.

Betances was the eighth-inning setup man behind Miller for the last season-plus, until Aroldis Chapman returned from a 30-game domestic abuse suspension on May 1. But the trio dubbed "Done BMC" may be short-lived.

There's already some chatter about left-handers Miller and Chapman percolating on the trade market, but there's no such talk about Betances and there shouldn't be.

At some point before the Aug. 1 non-waiver Trade Deadline, the Yankees might trade Chapman, a free agent at the end of the year, to a contending team in need of a closer.

Dumping Miller, last year's winner of the Mariano Rivera Award as the top reliever in the American League, is less likely. The Yankees have Miller signed to a contract paying him an economical $9 million a year through 2018. Miller is fond of saying that at 31, he's the second oldest pitcher on the the team behind CC Sabathia, who is 35. Miller's salary figure, though, is the 11th highest on this year's team.

But Betances is the jewel of the group. The Yankees are paying him $507,500 this year and he's under arbitration control for the next three seasons before he becomes a free agent in 2020.

Betances may someday be the Yankees closer, but right now he's manager Joe Girardi's all-purpose, middle-inning, go-to guy. Just 56 games into the season, Betances has already thrown 28 innings, the most of any Yankee reliever.

Asked if he monitor's the pitcher's workload, Girardi said: "Of course I do, yeah, of course I do. I make sure he has his rest and that we're not overusing him. I look at that for all of our pitchers."

Still, that's a lot of innings already and may be one reason for his recent slump. Betances, you may recall, already had Tommy John surgery on his right elbow as a Minor Leaguer in 2009, and like any pitcher who has survived that surgery, is certainly a candidate to have it again.

"I think he's thrown a lot already and I think he's had some bad luck," said Miller. "If you get beat with singles you can't worry too much about it. That's our job, to limit the damage."

In the most recent run of four appearances, Betances has allowed six runs on seven hits and Girardi has used him to record at least four outs twice in his last three times on the mound. Of course, he's also continued on his usual pace, striking out nine.

To Miller's point, on Friday night against the Orioles, Betances was brought in to pitch the seventh with the score tied, 5-5. Adam Jones and Hyun Soo Kim opened with ground singles to center, putting runners on first and third. Manny Machado knocked in the winning run with a ground ball to third.

Bad luck, but it didn't do anything to shake Betances' confidence.

"No, not at all," he said. "It's been tough. Obviously, it's frustrating. Obviously you want to go out there and throw as many scoreless [innings] as you can. You want to help your team win. We're not going through the greatest time right now."

Miller pitched two innings in New York's win at Camden Yards on Saturday so he wasn't available on Sunday. Betances was brought in to pitch the seventh nursing a 1-0 lead. Again, pinch-hitter Ryan Flaherty was safe on a ground single to short. Betances pitched out of that inning, striking out the last two hitters.

But in the eighth, Betances walked Mark Trumbo and allowed another single to Chris Davis. After he struck out Nolan Reimold, Girardi came to the mound to replace Betances with Chapman. Girardi had actually taken the ball from Betances when rain delayed the game for 97 minutes.

Chapman blew the save, Betances took the loss. Betances bemoaned the walk to Trumbo after he had him 0-2 and said he will have to make some adjustments. He noticed that Orioles hitters were taking his breaking ball as it dropped out of the zone.

"I've just got to make better pitches," said Betances, undaunted. "I'm still striking guys out. Most of the hits I'm giving up are ground-ball hits. Some are hit harder than others. You've just got to continue to battle and hope things will turn for you soon. You just have to find a way."

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.