TAMPA, Fla. — Dellin Betances began last season as one of the premier relievers in baseball. He ended it as an afterthought, about the last pitcher Joe Girardi wanted to call on during a postseason run that ended in Game 7 of the ALCS.
“I felt like last year my delivery was just not there, I just wasn’t consistent with that,” Betances said Tuesday.
Betances posted more than respectable numbers — a 2.87 ERA in 66 games with 100 strikeouts in 59 2⁄3 innings — and made his fourth straight All-Star Game. His command abandoned him, however, in the last five weeks of the season, when he had a 4.97 ERA and walked 11 in 12 2⁄3 innings.
“I worked on my breaking ball, throwing it more for strikes,” Betances said of his winter. “Last year, obviously, I had problems with a lot of walks, so that was a focal point for me.”
Betances, 29, hired a nutritionist in the offseason and the results were noticeable. The 6-8 righthander ended last season at 280 pounds and weighed in Tuesday at 264.
“Just wanted to get to a weight I was comfortable at, where I was two, three years ago,” he said. “I just feel like I’m trying to start strong and finish strong.”
And without the negative vibe that accompanied his start to last season. Betances lost a bruising arbitration battle to the Yankees last February, then engaged in a verbal back-and-forth with team president Randy Levine.
“Last year was a tough year,” Betances said. “There was a lot of negativity into the season. I think this year I’m just trying to be as positive as I can and try to help this team win a championship. Everybody here wants to win.”
Aaron Boone said no decision had been made on who will start the season opener in Toronto. Masahiro Tanaka, whom Girardi named his Opening Day starter on Day 1 of spring training last year, started the last three openers. Based on last season, however, Luis Severino, who finished third in AL Cy Young voting, would be the prohibitive favorite.