PORT ST. LUCIE — Dellin Betances expects to be ready for Opening Day. So does his new manager, Luis Rojas.
If that’s going to happen, the right-hander has a lot of work to do over the next three weeks.
The right-hander made his spring training debut for the Mets on Saturday and struggled with his command and velocity, but Betances was encouraged because the physical issues that sidelined him for nearly all of 2019 were no longer a concern.
Betances hit just 90 mph with his fastball in his 24-pitch outing. He also walked two batters, threw a wild pitch and allowed three runs, two earned, in the Mets’ 5-0 loss to the Nationals at Clover Park.
“I felt good,’’ Betances said. “It was nice to finally be back out there. [You] get some more adrenaline than [throwing] on the back field. It was fine.”
Betances is coming off a nightmarish 2019 during which he was limited to one September outing. He was first sidelined by a shoulder impingement, which was followed by a strained lat. When Betances finally returned late in the regular season, he faced two batters in a game in Toronto. He struck out both batters, then tore his left Achilles while hopping off the mound after the final out.
The injuries were especially ill-timed for Betances, who hit free agency for the first time in the offseason. He ended up signing a one-year deal with a base salary of $7.5 million that includes incentives that could earn Betances $5.5 million more, depending on how much he pitches.
After pitching in a simulated game during the week, Betances said he was looking forward to getting into a spring training game.
“It like I’m graduating,’’ Betances said.
Betances got ahead of the first batter he faced, Trea Turner, but walked both Turner and Victor Robles before fanning Starlin Castro. Turner and Robles executed a double-steal before Ryan Zimmerman drove in both runners with a single up the middle.
“To be out there facing another team, I know it’s a big step for him,’’ Rojas said. “He started off pretty good. He threw two strikes and then went to his slider and kind of lost his touch a little bit.”
Despite the numbers, Betances is confident he’ll be ready for the regular season.
“My goal is Opening Day,’’ Betances said. “That’s been my goal since throwing my offseason preparation. I don’t think why it would change it now.”
He’ll need to show signs of improvement to get there, although Betances said the lack of velocity was not a concern.
“Not for me, just because I’m usually a slower starter than most,’’ Betances said. “I’ll try to continue to progress with that.”
It was almost exactly a year ago when Betances was topping out at 91 mph with the Yankees and he downplayed it at the time, explaining that it was often an issue early in the spring.
So he wasn’t surprised by the radar gun, given that his offseason was altered by the Achilles rehab.
“Building arm strength is something that I kind of know,’’ Betances said. “Obviously, I’m not where I need to be just yet.”
And he’s going on his past history to believe that he’ll get there. He expects to be ready to pitch again in a few days.
“I’ve just got to trust that everything is gonna be there,’’ Betances said. “Obviously, I didn’t pitch all of last year but [for] two outs. … I’ve just got to trust it’s there, continue to build, progress and just get out there as much as I can before the season.”