Betances, 25, began the season as a member of Scranton/Wilkes-Barre's starting rotation, a place he's been his whole career. That changed in the beginning of May when Betances was moved to the bullpen. Although initially disappointed with the move, Betances has embraced his new role and been dominant as of late.
"[The season's] been a work in progress," Betances said. "In the beginning we had a lot of rainouts and the schedule was a little different so the routine was never really there. But after they moved me to the bullpen, I've been able to get a lot of appearances – you just get to pitch more. It's different, but I feel like the season's gone okay."
For the season, Betances has appeared in 23 games and is 5-4 with 66 strikeouts and a 3.95 ERA. The first six of those outings came as a starter. He went 2-2 with a 6.00 ERA in 24 innings. He struck out 25 batters but walked 16.
After his May 5 start at Gwinnett, one in which he threw five shutout innings and picked up the win, Betances was demoted to the bullpen, where he's been ever since.
"It was a little hard on me, but once I got that first call from the bullpen, I said, ‘This is what I'm doing now, so I just have to do the best I can at the job," he said. "I felt like I was starting to figure some things out as a starter. But, you know, at the end of the day I thank the Lord just for allowing me to have the opportunity to pitch."
His first bullpen appearance came in a May 10 home game against Gwinnett, a game in which rehabbing All-Star outfielder Curtis Granderson hit the game-winning home run for the RailRiders.
Betances entered with the game tied in the 7th and threw 2.1 shutout innings while striking out three to pick up his second win in five days.
In the 17 games Betances has thrown in relief, the 6-foot-8 right-hander is 3-2 with a 2.30 ERA and three saves in 31.1 innings. He's also struck out 41 batters while only issuing eleven walks and limiting batters to a .164 batting average.
Betances has quite possibly looked the best he ever has in his last ten outings for the RailRiders. He's pitched 17 innings and gone 2-1 with two saves, allowed just five hits and five walks, posted a 0.53 ERA, all while striking out 25.
"I've been trying to learn a lot from the guys who have done it for their whole career," he said. "I'm trying to just be aggressive, that's my mentality. I'm still learning and taking in as much as possible."
Betances believes he's been able to have more control of his pitches, especially his fastball, on the mound because of the increased time he's seen. He's been able to add a few miles per hour to the fastball to the point where a 98 mph reading on the radar gun isn't a mistake.
"I guess for every guy who gets moved to the bullpen, it's one of those things where your adrenaline goes up when you enter the game," he said of his increased fastball velocity. "Like I said, you definitely have to be more aggressive when you get called on to pitch from the bullpen."
Betances also credits his success to the work he's put in with pitching coach Scott Aldred, the help from experienced relievers and catchers Bobby Wilson and J.R. Murphy.
"I've been working a lot with Scotty every day this year, even when I was a starter," he said. "You also have guys here that have had experience in the big leagues, so I'm definitely trying to pick their brains a little.
"We got a great group of catchers here with Bobby being experienced and Murphy kind of coming up and learning a lot over the years," he continued. "He seems like he gets better every day, and Bobby is a good guy to help him out. I'm definitely comfortable with both guys back [behind the plate]."
Betances has indeed found his comfort zone. He's performing the way he knows he has always been capable of. He's not worried about what his role in the future might be – his only focus is what's in front of him now.
"I'm in the bullpen right now, that's what I'm doing," he said. "We'll take it day-by-day. Whatever happens, happens. As long as I get the opportunity to be on the mound, I'm fine with that."
Betances Finding Comfort Zone In Bullpen
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