With time and options running out for Dellin Betances to stick at the big league level for the Yankees, the team decided that his best chance at staying in the Bronx might be a move to the bullpen. Prior to that move, the 25-year-old had struggled mightily as a starter. He was demoted from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to Double-A Trenton last season to hopefully stumble upon the success he had at the level earlier in his career. That didn't happen. It seemed unlikely that a move from starter to reliever would have any real impact on the disappointing results.
Betances started six games for the RailRiders in 2013, pitching to a 6.00 ERA in 24.0 innings. There wasn't a clearly defined issue with Betances beyond questionable mechanics that would suggest a move to the bullpen would cure what ailed him. The first inning had been as much of a problem as the second or fifth, if he got there. The Yankees gambled on the idea that converting him to a reliever could work to hopefully salvage his status as a prospect without options for next season and their gamble has paid off handsomely so far.
Since his move to the RailRiders' bullpen, Betances has pitched to a 1.48 ERA in 48.2 innings. Opponents have been limited to a .169 batting average against Betances, who has managed to strike out 63 batters since his move to the bullpen. Betances had a 1.47 ERA in June and didn't give up a single earned run in 16.1 July innings. His walks issued are still a little on the high side with 21 free passes being issued since he was removed from the rotation. Betances had walked 16 batters in half as many innings before being converted to a reliever.
The Yankees' faith that Betances might be able to figure out his issues and salvage his career with a move to the bullpen has been rewarded with great success so far. The relievers at the major league level, with the exception of Joba Chamberlain, have been a true strength of an otherwise unimpressive team in 2013, but why not see if Betances' success can translate to the next level in what may very well end up being a lost season? Sure, there is little doubt that Betances would join the team when rosters expand next month and there's also the chance that he struggles and mentally falls apart to the point that it erases all the progress he's made. There's also the chance that the Yankees see what he can do to help them determine which bullpen pieces should be retained for next year.
If 2013 is going to be a season that ends up being a footnote to all the success of Yankees teams in recent memory, why not see what pieces that are ready for the next step can do when it hardly counts? The chances of this team making the playoffs seems to dwindle every day, so the inevitable growing pains might hurt a little bit less if they come with an eye toward the future. It's strange to write about the Yankees this way, but that's the reality of a team that doesn't seem to have a necessary hot streak in them as the season winds down.