Closing out games for the New York Yankees this season was bound to be one of the more high pressure roles available, particularly when you factor in the “replacing Mariano Rivera” aspect to things. To his credit, David Robertson has been largely successful in the position after spending a few years serving as Rivera’s primary setup man. Dellin Betances has also emerged as a solid option towards the back of the Yankees bullpen, however, and he could start to see some opportunities to spell Robertson in the role.
That doesn’t mean that Robertson’s job is in jeopardy, however.
Robertson has blown a pair of saves in his last six appearances, including a disastrous outing on Sunday against the Minnesota Twins in which he allowed five runs while only getting two outs that raised his ERA to 4.50. While it was easily the worst appearances of the season for Robertson, he’s still pitched well on the year posting a 1.167 WHIP and a career best 16.0 K/9 while picking up 12 saves. Robertson could use a day off every now and then, like any pitcher who works in high leverage situations, and Betances could likely be the guy to allow him to do so.
Brendan Kuty of NJ.com was among a group of reporters who spoke with manager Joe Girardi prior to Monday’s game against the Seattle Mariners. Girardi offered some high praise for the young right-hander, even going as far as offering a comparison to Rivera when he’d first joined the Yankees as a setup man to John Wettleland during the 1996 season:
That year (Rivera) was a guy that we could use for multiple innings and he had been extremely effective just like Dellin has been effective. So I can understand the comparisons. Obviously, they’re different pitchers. I think you can call both power pitchers, but Dellin has the curveball as well.
Girardi knows Rivera well, both as a teammate and as a manager. He was the starting catcher on that ‘96 Yankees team, putting together one of the best seasons offensively of his own career. That’s not to suggest that Betances will develop into the same type of pitcher Rivera was, however.
The 26 year old Brooklyn native has enjoyed a breakout season so far for the Yankees. He’s thrown 32.2 IP on the year, with a miniscule 1.38 ERA and 0.735 WHIP while striking out 15.4 batters per nine innings. Standing 6’8” and close to 250 pounds, he’s an intimidating figure on the mound and it will be curious to see how continues to handle opportunities as they are thrown his way.
It’s also worth noting that Robertson will be a free agent at season’s end. While there are zero indications that the Yankees won’t pursue re-signing him, Betances could potentially work his way into the conversation as an in-house replacement should the team elect to let Robertson walk instead.