TAMPA, Fla. - One half of the once-hyped "Killer B's,'' who supposedly were destined to lead the Yankees' rotation for years to come, has high hopes of making this year's team.
As a reliever.
For now, Dellin Betances' days as a starter are over because the organization, frustrated at his inability to find the strike zone consistently as a starter in the minors, shifted the 25-year-old righthander to the bullpen last season. The last-resort move paid off.
Betances dominated as a reliever for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and set himself up for an opportunity this spring, when holes abound in the Yankees' bullpen.
David Robertson is slated to take over for Mariano Rivera as closer, and back-end bullpen pieces Joba Chamberlain (Tigers) and Boone Logan (Rockies) have moved on. The only pitchers guaranteed spots at this point would seem to be righty Shawn Kelley, lefthander Matt Thornton, righty Preston Claiborne and Robertson.
"I feel like there's a lot of opportunities this year,'' Betances said Tuesday morning after a workout at the Yankees' minor-league complex. "I know a lot of the guys are eager to get across the street . I'm excited for this year. I know I feel good about myself after last year, and I'll be ready to compete for one of those spots.''
The Yankees saw the 6-8, 260-pound Betances only as a starter when they took him out of Brooklyn's Grand Street Campus High School in the eighth round of the 2006 draft. He and lefty Manny Banuelos, taken out of the Mexican League in 2008, quickly were dubbed the "Killer B's.'' But Betances never put a consistent year together, and Banuelos, after creating a stir in 2011 with a standout spring training and a good season in the minors, endured an injury-plagued 2012 that ended with Tommy John surgery. Banuelos, 22, sat out last season and is a peripheral candidate this spring for the fifth starter's job.
"For me, I'm still here and Manny's coming back, he's healthy,'' Betances said. "He feels good right now and I've seen him throw bullpens and he looks real strong. For me, I feel strong and I feel ready to compete. Hopefully, this year we'll both be up there.''
Betances has one more option, meaning if he doesn't make the club out of spring training he can be stored in Triple A and perhaps become a bullpen alternative as the year goes on. But unlike past springs, when he was seen mostly as a long shot to make the club, Betances has a legitimate chance.
"I think this year is the first year that I actually come in and have a chance to make the team,'' Betances said. "I feel good, I feel confident.''
That is partly because of the transition he made from starter to reliever. The control rarely evident in his starting career -- 69 walks in 742/3 innings in 2012 -- improved dramatically when the Yankees moved him to the bullpen early last season. Betances compiled a 1.35 ERA with five saves for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 32 relief appearances. He walked 26, allowed 33 hits and struck out 83 in 60 innings.
"It's definitely a different mentality,'' he said. "You have to come out aggressive, you have to come in firing right away. It's not one of those things where you work yourself into the game. You have to come, throw strikes right away and try to get the guys out. I feel like there's more adrenaline.''