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Mets reliever Dellin Betances: 'I'm still not there right now'

Mets relief pitcher Dellin Betances pitches during the

Mets relief pitcher Dellin Betances pitches during the eighth inning against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park in Boston on July 28, 2020. Credit: CJ GUNTHER/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock/CJ GUNTHER/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Dellin Betances, the Mets’ most expensive offseason addition and key component of their question-mark bullpen, isn’t his usual, perennial-All-Star self yet. And he knows that. But he expects to get there.

“I feel like the more repetition I get, the better I'll be able to get,” he said Saturday. “I'm still not there right now.”

A noteworthy development in Betances’ four appearances: His fastball velocity is 93.5 mph, which is to say, his average is decidedly average. In years past, that was 4-5 mph faster.

During spring training, when he struggled to hit 90 in an exhibition game, Betances explained that that is not uncommon for him and that he gets to his high-90s norm slowly over the course of the preseason.

Then came the pandemic-induced hiatus, then a three-week camp, then this. Nearly five months after that first Grapefruit League appearance, he still isn’t back to normal.

Betances said his lower velocity is not surprising because he missed all but one game last season due to shoulder, lat and Achilles tendon injuries. He is pitching regularly now for the first time since October 2018.

“I missed a lot of time,” Betances said. “I felt like I was out of the game for a year and a half, so it's a little different this time.

“Obviously I’m not throwing as hard as I was throwing a couple years ago right now, so I got to make sure I’m attacking the strike zone as much as I can and changing speeds.”

Manager Luis Rojas said: “That’s something that we'll need to be keep monitoring.”

Betances tossed two scoreless innings across his first three appearances. But on Friday against the Braves, with his fastball slower than it was in previous games, Betances allowed four runs (two hits, two walks) in one-third of an inning. It was his third outing in four days.

“He told me he didn’t have a good feel for the ball, the grip or something,” Rojas said. “Dellin is a competitor. He wants the ball, he wants to go out there and do his thing. There's nothing he's complaining about as far as velo or things not going his way. He's tough.”

A throwing Thor

Noah Syndergaard’s step forward in his Tommy John surgery rehabilitation this week: He threw for the first time.

He posted on Instagram a video of the catch session. His partner? Mets prospect J.T. Ginn, their second-round draft pick in June. Both had surgery in March, and they have been rehabbing together at Cressey Sports Performance, a private facility in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

“Four and half month goes by fast,” Syndergaard wrote in the caption, “when the world is burning.”

Reliever reinforcements?

Among the Mets’ trio of sidelined relievers, Jared Hughes (coronavirus) is closest to returning, Rojas said. He recently faced hitters on consecutive days, among his final tests.

“I heard that went really well,” Rojas said.

Robert Gsellman (right triceps tightness) also has faced hitters and is working toward pitching on back-to-back days. Brad Brach (coronavirus) is still limited to bullpen sessions.

No distractions

Rojas said recent baseball coronavirus developments — including six teams not playing this weekend and the season maybe getting canceled — hasn’t distracted the Mets.

“Obviously it's concerning when you hear news and stuff happening, and there's been talks because it's in the news, it's on their phones,” Rojas said. “Some of the news coming out, we talked as a team that we were going to see probably some of these things happen. We trust the protocol, we trust the way things can operate and how we can behave as well as a team. I haven't seen any different from any of the guys. They're themselves.”

Extra bases

Rene Rivera, out with a hyperextended left elbow, suffered the injury during a swing Wednesday, Rojas said … Rojas on rookie Andres Gimenez, who entered Saturday 4-for-13 and has played third, short and second: “That kid, it’s incredible what he can do out on the field … This kid is a player. With that little juice in him, the little strength that he has, we’re seeing definitely a special kid here getting some big-league experience in different positions. Just great to have him.”

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