NEW YORK -- Call it a healthy dichotomy. Dellin Betances isn't just thriving as a reliever; he's found a role that has enhanced his comfort and maximized his arsenal to best effect. Betances, a former starter, may just be settling into the bullpen, but he's struck out nine of the last 13 batters he faced.
And it's not a coincidence. Betances has a 1.85 ERA in 17 appearances as a reliever, and he said his velocity has consistently been higher out of the bullpen. The hulking right-hander may still be a work in transition, but he said he's learned a lot since first moving to a relief role last season.
"I'm learning from the guys down there," said Betances. "I've done it for a year now, since last year, and it feels good. It's just different. You have to go out and be aggressive in the strike zone."
Betances made 38 appearances for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last season, and all but six of them came as a reliever. His success, however, didn't translate to the Majors. Betances scuffled in six relief appearances with the Yankees last year, and now, as a 26-year-old, he appears to finally get it.
"You only have to go out there for one or two innings, and you're not going to face the lineup more than one time," Betances said. "You've just got to go out there and give it your all."
The toughest part for most converted starters is staying healthy when pitching on a more regular basis, but Betances doesn't report any concerns in that department. In fact, Betances said Sunday that his arm has responded to a reduced workload and that the bullpen may ultimately be best for him.
"Honestly, I feel better now," Betances said. "Maybe it's because I'm used to throwing a lot of pitches, and now I'm not throwing as much. I guess that helps, but I've been able to recover well. I'm comfortable and I'm happy. I'm going out there and pitching more often and I'm helping the team win as much as I can."
Betances is one of the few Yankees relievers unavailable for Sunday's doubleheader, and manager Joe Girardi said he's done his best to protect his bullpen.
"He's been a starter. He's used to putting up innings," Girardi said Saturday. "And he's used to being a multiple-inning guy in the Minor Leagues. That's what he did a lot of when he was a reliever. What he didn't do a lot was throw two days in a row, and if you notice, I haven't done that a lot to him."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less