PORT ST. LUCIE — Dellin Betances’ spring is progressing at the pace he expected, but that doesn’t erase the frustration of watching others pitch in the Grapefruit League while he continues to strengthen his left ankle.
“It’s hard when you are throwing on the back fields,” the Mets reliever said Saturday. “It’s not the same as a real game, so you have got to try to train your mind to be as good as you can.”
The right shoulder impingement that last season sidelined Betances, then with the Yankees, from spring training until September isn’t an issue. But the Achilles tendon he tore upon his return has required an extensive rehab, one in which he must show he can cover bases in addition to the grind of landing on his left foot during his delivery.
Betances has faced hitters for live batting practice three times this spring. He expects at least another session this week, followed by perhaps a simulated game with base runners before a discussion can occur with team brass about allowing him to pitch in the Grapefruit League.
“I’ve been working to move off the mound to field bunts, so I think we are trying to make sure we do all the stuff before I get out to a real game,” Betances said. “You have got to listen to these guys, obviously just follow their plan, but I think everything has been good so far.”
With 3 ½ weeks remaining before Opening Day, the 32-year-old Betances is still confident he will be ready to start the season.
“I think we’re right on schedule to get seven or eight games,” Betances said. “If I can get in that, it would be enough games to get ready. I think we’ve got enough time. We’ve got about four weeks, right? I think we’ll be good. There’s no reason [to worry]. I haven’t gotten that indication, so I think for me it’s going to be seven or eight games and that should be good for me.”
All indications to manager Luis Rojas are Betances will be ready to start the season.
“He’s on point to how he’s done it in past camps where he’s at this point getting there, velocity getting there and feel for his two breaking balls are there as well,” Rojas said.
The Mets signed Betances to a one-year deal worth $10.5 million, betting on his upside if healthy. In his last full season with the Yankees two years ago, he pitched to a 2.70 ERA in 66 appearances. He was selected to the AL All-Star team in the four prior seasons.
Betances, Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia, Seth Lugo and Justin Wilson provide Rojas with multiple experienced closer options. But Diaz and Familia are coming off disappointing seasons, and the left-hander Wilson was signed as a setup man. Lugo still hasn’t pitched in the Grapefruit League after fracturing his left pinkie toe but is expected to throw live batting practice Sunday.
The scenery is now different for Betances following eight seasons with the Yankees, but says he’s quickly adapted to his new surroundings.
“It’s a tight-knit group, a lot of these guys I enjoy their company, which is always a good thing,” Betances said. “We spend a lot of time together and we’ve got a lot of talent in this room, so I think a lot of guys are excited.”