As his steady climb up the bullpen ladder continues, Dellin Betances continues looking at each outing as if it could be his last.
"For me, this is where I want to be and I'm trying to do the best I can to stay up here," Betances said.
The 6-8 righthander, of course, is in no danger of getting sent back to the minors anytime soon.
Not after almost ridiculously dominant performances like last night against the Mets when, after replacing Chase Whitley with two on and two outs in the fifth, he threw 21/3 perfect innings in a 1-0 victory, striking out the last six batters he faced.
"I've been trying to prove myself this whole time," said Betances (2-0), who earned the win and lowered his ERA to 1.61. "I feel like I've had a lot of ups and downs and I'm just glad things are going my way now but I have to get better each and every time."
That, for opponents, is a scary prospect.
Betances, with a mid- to high-90s fastball and biting curveball, which has had scouts raving since the spring, has struck out 39 and walked nine this season. Of his last 35 outs, 23 have come via strikeout. In his 16 games, he has held opponents to a .154 average.
"My impression: Glad I don't have to see him for a while," Mets manager Terry Collins said.
The Manhattan-born Betances, 26, had been a failed starter in the Yankees organization, which selected him in the eighth round of the 2006 draft out of Brooklyn's Grand Street Campus High School, until a switch to the bullpen during last season. He flourished in the role and that continued this spring when his performance forced the club to add him to the bullpen after camp. Joe Girardi, not fully trusting the young pitcher early in the season because of his past control issues, gradually has put Betances in more significant situations.
"I don't want to get too far ahead of how we project where he'll be," Girardi said of Betances one day pitching in a setup role or even as a closer. "But I will say this: He's got a gift."
Betances said his success "is all about confidence," more so than his repertoire. But closer David Robertson, who improved to 7-for-7 this season in save chances after recording a four-out save, said Betances' stuff is as good as there is.
"Impressive, it's incredible what he's doing," Robertson said. "It seems like every batter he faces, he gets a strikeout."
Robertson earned his nickname of "Houdini" early in his Yankees career by coming into games with men on base and getting out of those jams, often with the strikeout, much as Betances is.
"It's tough," Robertson said of learning to pitch in those spots. "It's hard to explain your mentality when you get out there, but you just know that you have to make the best pitches every time. And with Dellin's stuff, just throwing a fastball and curveball is all he really needs. It's that good."