TAMPA, Fla. -- You need more than a MetroCard to get from Washington Heights to Yankee Stadium, at least the way Dellin Betances made the journey, detoured as his was through Staten Island, Trenton, Scranton, and finally, the Yankees spring training facility in Tampa.
But the next time Dellin Betances goes to Yankee Stadium, he will drive into the players-only garage, and avail himself of privileges other New York kids can only dream about. Betances, the 6-foot-8 righthander who throws 96 MPH, was named a member of the Yankees bullpen today by Joe Girardi on the strength of an overpowering spring and a seemingly limitless future.
In 10 appearances this spring, Betances allowed just five hits and one run for a camp ERA of 0.73. Most importantly, he appears to finally have harnessed command of his two-pitch repertoire, fastball and curve, striking out 11 in 12 1/3 innings while walking just four.
It was Betances' command, or lack thereof, that caused the Yankees to scuttle what they believed would be a promising career as a starter -- he was one of the original Killer B's along with Andrew Brackman and Manny Banuelos -- and shift him to the bullpen last May. Betances began to find himself last year at Scranton, striking out 63 in 49 1/3 innings and earning himself a September callup.
But it was this spring that Betances really began to open some eyes, especially last Sunday, when he came into a bases loaded situation against the Blue Jays -- and retired their two most dangerous hitters, striking out Jose Bautista with a curveball and getting Edwin Encarnacion to fly out harmlessly.
Outings like that allow the Yankees to dream on Betances as more than just another reliever. The hope is that the 25-year-old will develop into a late-game reliever, a set-up man or even a closer.
"You would like to be able to say that," Joe Girardi said. "Because he has the velocity, he has the swing and miss curveball. And since he’s focused on those two pitches and he’s been more consistent, so I would love to see him move up.
It’s the nature of our business. Obviously the better you perform, especially in our bullpen, the further you get moved back."
Betances was understandably overjoyed to learn that he and Vidal Nuno, who had been part of the competition for the No. 5 starter's job won by Michael Pineda, had been selected to round out the Yankees bullpen, joining David Robertson, Shawn Kelley, Matt Thornton, David Phelps and Adam Warren.
"It's an honor, man," Betances said. "I'm still in shock. I grew up in this organization, I grew up watching them."
In fact, a 10-year-old Betances had been in the stands at Yankee Stadium the day David Wells threw his perfect game. And even though he has been to Yankee Stadium as a member of the team before, there is a definite difference between being a September callup and a member of the Opening Day roster.
"The first time I got called up, I was excited, but I felt like it was more of a gift," he said. "But I feel like this year I came in, did what I had to do, and I felt like I earned my spot. Now it’s just competing and trying to help the team as much as I can."
Upon hearing the news, Betances said he texted his fiancee, called both his parents and got in touch with his brothers and sisters. "Everybody's real excited," he said.
And as the only born-and-bred New Yorker on the Yankees roster, he said he expected plenty of ticket requests for the home opener on April 7.
"I’m out of the bullpen, so I’m not sure when I’m pitching," he said. "I’m going to tell them it’s better to watch it from home."