New York City Native Dellin Betances is Star of the Yankee Bullpen

Howard Goldin

On Sunday afternoon, three Yankee relief pitchers David Robertson, Matt Daley and Matt Thornton, not only failed to save a 2-1 victory for rookie Chase Whitley, but allowed six runs to score in the ninth inning. The blown save was only the second in 14 attempts for Robertson, but was a disappointment to not only the team but to the large Bat Day crowd of 42,449 in the stands.

One Yankee reliever, who has had very few disappointing appearances in 2014, Dellin Betances, was called in to follow Whitley in the sixth inning. The 6-8 right-hander continued his mastery over opposing batters. Betances fanned all three batters he faced in the sixth. In the seventh, Kurt Suzuki was retired on an infield groundout and the next two batters struck-out. Eighteen of the 22 pitches thrown by the reliever were strikes.

Throwing strikes and fanning batters has become the norm for Betances this season. Betances fanned 51 batters in the first 50 games played by the Yankees this year. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he has become the first pitcher in MLB history to accomplish this feat.

Thus far, Betances has struck out 56 batters in 32.2 innings. Of the 98 batters he has retired, more than half were fanned. On Sunday, he explained the reason for this success to reporters.

“Before I was throwing too many fastballs. Up here [major leagues], they hit fastballs.” He stated he now the throws his curve ball more often than he did in the minors because“I have the confidence to throw it in every situation.”

His effectiveness can be measured by more than the number of batters he strikes out. His ERA is a miniscule 1.38. Opposing batters are only hitting .135 off the young righty. That high level of success has led to his name being mentioned for a place on the All-Star team.

The 26 year-old responded modestly to those remarks, “That’s an honor; it’s making me feel good.”

Betances was drafted by his hometown team, the Yankees, in the eighth round of the 2006 First-Year Player Draft. The NYC native is of Dominican heritage. One year before he was drafted, Betances was being honored at Yankee Stadium as the first NYC high school student who was named an Aflac All-American. Looking back, he reminisced, “I was in high school [Grand Street Academy], I knew I could be drafted, but I didn’t think of being here.”

It is only recently that Betances has worked out of the bullpen. He started 116 of his first 118 games in the minors.

The young pitcher spoke about the change of approach required to be a reliever, “Growing up, I was a starter. You have to be more aggressive out of the bullpen. You have to make adjustments. Throw first pitch strikes.”

Although he pitched eight seasons in the minors, Betances stressed that he is still learning, “I’m still learning. Everybodt has been good to me here. I’m just learning as much as I can. I’m happy to be here and follow [Brian] McCann’s game plan.”

Betances has a seen an improvement in the last two years, “the last two years was something different. I feel I have learned a great deal. In the winter I worked and trained in the Dominican Republic.  I learned a lot last year and even more this year because I have been here all season. This has given me more self-confidence.”

He was fully prepared for his relief responsibilities this year, “They told me my role in Spring Training. I’m happy because I am helping the team,” Betances said.

Betances calls his current situation with the Yankees, “A dream come true.” Being on the team in the final season of Mariano Rivera (2013) and Derek Jeter (2014) has made the experience more meaningful to him.

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Reporter’s note of explanation-Much of the information and quotes from Betances were gained at the Spanish-Language press conference with Betances that was held on Friday afternoon. These monthly sessions organized by Kenny Leandry of the NYY Media Relations Department are very informative and beneficial in providing information and inclusion to a very important segment of the Yankees fan base.