LAKELAND, Fla. — Dellin Betances will check back in with the Yankees later this month.
The reliever made it two straight solid outings Saturday, throwing a scoreless inning against the Tigers.
On Sunday, he’ll head off to Bradenton, Florida, to join the Dominican Republic for the World Baseball Classic.
“I didn’t throw that many pitches [seven], but I felt like I was getting stronger,” Betances said.
If the Dominican team does well — which is not a stretch to envision, given that it won the tournament in 2013 — Betances might not return until March 23, which happens to be his 29th birthday. The WBC final is scheduled for March 22 at Dodger Stadium.
“He’s not where he’s going to be at the end of the month, but he’s further ahead than usual,” Joe Girardi said, noting the extra offseason work Betances did to be ready for the WBC.
Anthony Gose led off the third against Betances with a bunt single, but Gary Sanchez threw him out trying to steal. Jose Iglesias flied out and Betances walked Ian Kinsler before getting Victor Martinez to ground softly to second.
Before Gose took off, Betances made a throw over to keep him close, something he said he “never did” the last couple of seasons. Holding runners has been an issue in his career but is something Girardi said Betances has gotten better at during spring training.
“I put in a lot of work this offseason,” Betances said. “Last year I was slow to the plate. I worked on that the whole offseason. I feel good with that.”
He also has been working on a slide-step delivery with men on base, something he was not confident in doing last year.
“The key with that is trying to make good pitches,” Betances said. “You don’t want to slide-step and not concentrate on the hitter because then it doesn’t really mean anything. Just trying to be consistent with that. I have to continue to do it to try and master it.”
No Niese yet
Jon Niese, signed to a minor-league deal shortly after camp opened to compete for a bullpen spot, isn’t quite ready for games. Niese, who had surgery last August to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee, hasn’t yet thrown a simulated game, which should come sometime this week. The likely next step after that would be a regular game.
“He’s behind,” Girardi said. “He got here later and he had the surgery . . . But he threw BP the other day and I thought he threw well. He threw 25 pitches, and after the first 10, I thought [they] were really good.”
Chad Green wasn’t quite as good in his second outing as he was in the first. The righthander, one of five pitchers competing for two open rotation spots, allowed one run, three hits and a walk in 1 2⁄3 innings in the Yankees’ 11-1 victory over the Tigers. In his first outing, Green threw two scoreless innings Monday against the Orioles.
The Yankees had 13 hits Saturday in improving to 8-2. Aaron Hicks had two hits, including a two-run homer, and a walk. Sanchez hit a two-run homer and drove in three runs.