CLEVELAND — Four times on Tuesday night, starting with one out in the first inning, the Yankees’ bullpen door swung open. A reliever emerged and trotted to the mound to stymie the Twins for a total of 26 outs in the Yankees’ 8-4 wild-card game victory.
None of those relievers was Dellin Betances.
Joe Girardi’s confidence in the struggling All-Star fell to the point in which Betances didn’t even warm up in a loser-go-home game in which the Yankees got one out from their starting pitcher. That speaks for itself.
Now, going into Thursday night’s Division Series opener against the Indians at Progressive Field, one of Girardi’s jobs is a confidence game. He has to find the confidence to use Betances again. And Betances, who insists his own confidence isn’t shaken, has to prove he can be the dominant force of old.
“I’m telling you, he’s going to be important in this,” Girardi said Wednesday night. “If we’re going to win, he’s going to be extremely important, and I’m going to use him. I chose not to last night just because the guys were kind of rolling along, and I liked what they were doing, but we’re going to need him.”
Unless Sonny Gray gives the Yankees a lengthy Game 1 start, Girardi’s bullpen maneuvers will start in the middle innings. The manager figures to be without David Robertson, Chad Green and Tommy Kahnle, the trio that threw a combined 7 2⁄3 innings Tuesday. That may force Girardi to go to Betances even if he’s not 100 percent sure if the big righthander is over the control issues that plagued him down the stretch.
“I’m going to use him,” Girardi said. “He’s going to be used in important situations. We need him. His issues this year have been walks. Those have been his issues. It seems, when he gets on a roll, he doesn’t allow them. When he gets ahead in the count, he doesn’t allow them, and that’s the most important thing for him.”
Betances, when asked if he thinks Girardi still believes in him, said without rancor: “I think that’s a better question for Joe. I mean, honestly, I’m going to be ready whenever they call my name.”
Andrew Miller, Betances’ former Yankees teammate, said the Indians aren’t exactly champing at the bit to face Betances even if he is struggling.
“I know he wants to be out there,” Miller said. “I don’t think I’ve played with anybody who wants to pitch as much as him. I think he’s not anybody you want to face. He’s as good as they come and everybody goes through ups and downs, and his downs don’t last very long.”
Girardi also would be able to use Adam Warren and Chasen Shreve, neither of whom pitched in the wild-card game. Warren has thrown only one inning in the last month, but the Yankees still placed him on the postseason roster. And there’s always the chance that Robertson, Green and Kahnle could declare themselves ready to pitch Thursday despite their long outings Tuesday.
“It’s the playoffs now,” Green said. “So I think everyone’s going to take the ball whenever.”