Betances and Cabral standing out early in spring bullpen competition

Fan Confidence Poll: March 10th, 2014
2014 Season Preview: The New Closer

Depending on what happens with the fifth starter spot, the Yankees have either two or three bullpen spots up for grabs in camp. There are something like eight or nine relievers competing for those spots, though some obviously have a better chance than others. Dellin Betances and Cesar Cabral, both of whom pitched with the team last September, have already emerged as the early favorites for big league jobs just two weeks into the Grapefruit League schedule.

Betances, who turns 26 in less than two weeks, continued his strong spring yesterday by pitching around a one out double in an inning of work. He didn’t just pitch around the double, he did it by throwing six straight curveballs to big leaguers Matt Joyce (strikeout) and Wil Myers (ground out). That’s not something Betances would have been able to do in the past. Emphasizing his offspeed stuff is something he’s been working on this spring.

“I feel good right now. I feel good with where my offspeed is. I feel like I can throw it for strikes. It’s been working for me. I’m just trying to better myself with each outing,” said Betances to Bryan Hoch. “I know my offspeed was one of the things that helped me out when I got in trouble with my fastball. I would try to use that to keep myself a little calm with my mechanics. I just tried to take that into this spring, mix my pitches. In the big leagues, everybody can hit fastballs, no matter how hard you throw. I’m just trying to use all my pitches the best way I can.”

Betances is up to 6.1 scoreless innings in camp, striking out five against two walks and two hits. The opponent quality stat at Baseball Reference says he’s been facing mostly big leaguers, which isn’t surprising. He’s been the first guy out of the bullpen in most games. Betances has the size and power stuff the Yankees love, so maybe a roster spot was his to lose coming to camp following last season’s bullpen breakout. If it was, he’s done nothing to lose the spot. If it wasn’t, he’s pushed himself towards the top of the depth chart.

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

With Cabral, on the other hand, it always felt like he was on the outside of the bullpen competition looking in. At least it did to me. Carrying a second lefty specialist is a luxury, and with Matt Thornton already on board to be the primary guy, passing on Cabral to take a more versatile right-hander makes some sense. It still does, actually. Then again, the best pitchers are the best pitchers, and if another southpaw is one of the seven best relievers in the organization, he should be on the roster come Opening Day.

In 4.1 innings across four appearances this spring, the just-turned-25-year-old Cabral has allowed one hit and two walks, striking out four. Lefties are 0-for-4 with three strikeouts and a walk against him. Cabral has not faced the best competition however, basically Double-A level according to that opponent quality metric at B-Ref. He can only face the guys he’s put out there against though, and if he keeps getting outs and handling lefties, he’ll get a longer look and more serious consideration as camp progresses.

So far, after only a handful of Grapefruit League appearances, both Betances and Cabral have done everything they’ve needed to do to secure a big league bullpen job. Neither guy has a spot locked up of course, but they have moved to the front of the pack. Preston Claiborne, Matt Daley, and Fred Lewis have pitched well too, so they’re not alone, but others like Robert Coello and Brian Gordon have already managed to pitch themselves out of bullpen consideration. Both Betances and Cabral have made a nice little statement early on and put themselves in good position for a big league job when roster decision time comes.

Fan Confidence Poll: March 10th, 2014
2014 Season Preview: The New Closer
  • Kosmo

    let´s see Cabral vs. better competition. Betances is for real.

    • Guns

      Betances is also the guy who can get completely smacked around after seemingly rolling along with two swinging strikeouts, as seen in this game:

      I love his potential as much as anybody but he scares me. I wouldn’t say he’s “for real.” I’d say AT BEST he’s still a complete unknown. He’s obviously making the team at this point, so I’ll wait until he has some sustained success against big league competition to get my hopes up.

      • Farewell Mo

        I agree though it is a good sign that he’s looking good so far.
        To call him ‘real” after 6 spring training innings is way premature, SSS in spring training to boot.

        • Kosmo

          what I meant by ´´real is not so much his ST performance which has been great up until this point but that it looks like he´s finally putting it together. He was dominate in relief last season albeit AAA, so maybe the road for Betances is pointing towards success.

          • Jorge Steinbrenner

            We’re splitting hairs here.

            I get what you’re saying, FWIW.

          • Farewell Mo

            I can buy most of that. He seems to have the quality power stuff you’d like in a reliever though we still need to see him show enough command somewhat consistently to be successful. That’s only gonna come with time though.

      • Jorge Steinbrenner

        If he’s truly become more consistent in his mechanics, and has changed his pitching profile, as has been written, then that can be helped. Time will tell.

        At best, he’s someone who is going to be making this team and not pitching out of the ass-end of the bullpen. That’s a bit more than “complete unknown” at the moment.

      • stuckey

        …and the quest for the sure-fire major league rookie pitcher continues…

      • RetroRob

        Actually, AT BEST, he is for real.

  • pat

    Teh bullpen is gonna be nice.

  • JonS

    Will people be clamoring next year to stretch him back out as a starter or is that done after the Joba/Hughes fiasco?

    • Farewell Mo

      Doubt it.
      He’s failed pretty miserably as a starter in the minors for years now so I don’t see how anyone could make a reasonable argument that he could be a successful starter on the major league level.

    • Guns

      Maybe fans who don’t know his history. He was given every chance to pan out as a starter. If he dominates as a reliever, I personally see it as all the more reason to keep him there and believe the Yankees made the right decision to put him there.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      I don’t see what this has to do with either Phil Hughes or Joba Chamberlain, or what bullpen work had to do with their not reaching their ceilings in a Yankee uniform.

      Dellin Betances has been in the Yankee system for eight seasons, the majority of them as a starter. While it’s still not a large sample, we can safely say that the only time he’s been close to winning a big league spot has been as a reliever. He is also on his last option and is no longer an under-25 type.

      Folks on here can, and probably will, clamor, but you can clamor for anything in this world. I want to make half a million dollars this year. I am clamoring for it.

      • RetroRob

        Well, if you have a good fastball and a nasty curve, you might make the Yankees bullpen and make a half a million dollars this year.

        • Jorge Steinbrenner

          I probably have a good fastball, say, compared to Macho Man “Randy Levine.”

    • pat

      He’s pretty much proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that he’s not cut out to be a starter. Hughes and Joba were both good starters in the minors who were given bullpen jobs based on MLB necessity, not out of being subpar minor league starters.

      • Kevin G.

        Necessity and stupidity, don’t forget that

    • The Great Gonzo

      You know who else was a failed starter? Jesus. Nah, he wasn’t…

      But Mariano was. So there you go.

  • Rick

    On Aledmys Diaz:
    “MONDAY: Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports (via Twitter) that Diaz’s deal was worth just $8MM — a significant departure from his initial goals.”

    Yankees must have hated what they saw.

  • Jorge Steinbrenner


    • Chip Rodriguez

      I like Sizemore, but I’m not optimistic he’ll get the 3B job. On the flip side, I am liking Kelly Johnson more and more, and will be perfectly happy seeing him at 3B with Dean Anna as all round utility backup guy.

      Definitely agreed you on the second. Trade Meredith for her! (Trying so hard to not make the #doubleteamjulia joke…)

      • The Great Gonzo

        ‘(Trying so hard to not make the #doubleteamjulia joke…)’

        But you just did, and its fantastic.

      • John S.

        Who is Julia? Never heard of her. Is she on YES?

        • Jorge Steinbrenner

          I started up a stink about Julia Morales, the dugout reporter for the Astros, in the game thread this weekend after seeing her on TV.

          She’s very clearly “my type.” Yours may vary.

  • Havok9120

    Betances has been really impressive so far. Exciting to watch.

    I’m optimistic about Cabral, so I want to see him not just get some time against better competition but better right-handed competition. I don’t think he’s done anything to show he’s just a lefty-specialist.

    • dp

      How so? Cabral to me looks terrible…much prefer Fred Lewis.

      • Havok9120

        Terrible seems a bit much when comparing two guys with effectively the same stats in ST. And Lewis has looked good, but I’m not getting worked up about a guy with such a short track record.

      • I’m One

        Cabral’s #s look good, but I haven’t seen him pitch (nor do I have the expertise to discern good from bad by looking at him). Have you seen him and do you have that expertise? Honest question. If you do, please explain why he look terrible for my education.

        • dp

          I fear he will miss often and get hammered. I have a good friend who is a baseball coach and he does not like him. It’s hard for me here to explain just why but it made a lot of sense to me.

          • Jorge Steinbrenner

            I have a friend who died for our sins and he likes Stairs just fine.

  • The Great Gonzo

    I am a fan of what Betances has been able to string together this spring. It sure would be nice to get some return from that investment, while simultaneously sticking it to the ‘Teh Yankees can’t develop a pitcher!!!!1’ crowd. That would be pretty awesome.

    • JonS

      No one says the Yankees can’t develop pitching…They say they can’t develop STARTING pitching. lol

      • Jorge Steinbrenner

        Let me correct you.

        They haven’t successfully transitioned a front-line pitching prospect to projected major league success since Chien-Ming Wang, who was an overachiever.

        They’ve also had exactly two such prospects in the system since. We know their names and beat that horse beyond recognition.

        • CS Yankee

          err, three…IPK says hello.

          • Jorge Steinbrenner

            Forgot about him. He successfully transitioned, just for another team. You can believe whatever you want as to what that means.

            Do we really feel he profiled as a front-end guy, though?

  • Eddardo Nuney

    Phelps is my #5 guy. I’d keep Nuno and Pineda down in AAA in case someone falters. I like the idea of Cabral in the pen to give Joe double barrel lefties. You need plenty of lefties in this division.

  • Tags

    I remember watching Betances pitch in Trenton and at times I just couldn’t believe how unhittable he could be. Then an inning or 2 later he’d just lose it. So my hope is that the bullpen is where he should be, lights out for an inning +.

  • Eselquetodolosabe

    Keep building Mr. Betances. Eager to see if Montgomery has a rebound year. Looks good so far. This guy was lights out not too long ago.

  • DIrk Diggler

    Considering Betances only has one more option, I think there is a real shot that he makes the opending day roster. Also, I think we can all agree that he has more upside than a guy like Claiborne although Claiborne seems like he could be a decent arm in a ML bullpen.

    Wouldn’t Claiborne/Betances hypothetically be pitching in the 6th/7th innings the majority of the time anyway? Starting off Betances in a low pressure role and moving him up the ladder if Kelley/Thornton spit the bit seems like a plausible idea.

    And regarding Cabral, I actually think Fred Lewis has looked better and Girardi has continued to be impressed with him.

    The way I see it is this:

    Seven man bullpen opening day —


    Depth chart in terms of next to be called up following injury/ineffectiveness —

    Ramirez (?)
    Greene (?)
    Turley (?)

    • DIrk Diggler

      Forgot Burawa…

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      I think Cabral’s had an eye looked this way for longer and would easily win the tiebreaker over Lewis.

      Still, this isn’t the worst problem to have.

      • DIrk Diggler

        “Still, this isn’t the worst problem to have.”

        Truth. Whatever happens, happens. But regardless, we have a ton of available and seemingly capable arms heading into this season.

        Feels a lot different this season compared to even a few years ago when we were exposed to one dimensional guys like Cody Eppley and Clay Rapada pitching on the big club.

        • Jorge Steinbrenner

          Don’t knock Rapada too much now. He had his moment in the sun, and actually was at a better spot coming into ST, and throughout, than a guy like Fred Lewis this year.

          I don’t even really think you should be knocking Eppley too much. Last-minute waiver pickup who stayed in the bigs almost all year. His only crime was Joe not having MLB amend the rules in order to have them both be able to come in interchangibly throughout the game.

          • DIrk Diggler

            Not necessarily knocking either, they both helped more than hurt in their time here, mentioning them was sort of my way of expressing how confident I am in the depth of this bullpen when injury and ineffectiveness arises.

            Can I knock Corey Wade for falling off a cliff though? That was ugly!

            • Jorge Steinbrenner

              I just assume 9/10ths of the guys coming off the scrap heap eventually return to it and that you only hope that moment of light and clarity comes through at the right time for your team.

              Thank you, Cory.

    • I’m One

      Unless Lewis is completely lights out, I’d say Claiborne has the upper hand due to his time in the MLB last season.

      • Jorge Steinbrenner

        I agree. “Guy who shows up at camp looking good” has to look that much better to win over “guy who looks good and was on the team last year.”

        I’m not sure where they go with Preston. He looked a bit exposed after a while last season and, while I’m not looking at numbers, my not-so-great memory skills tell me he hasn’t been overly impressive thus far in the spring. Am I off there? I like the good I’ve seen with him. I just don’t know if he’s anything beyond an average middle reliever.

      • DIrk Diggler

        Well so far Lewis has been lights out, albeit in a small sample size.

        I think, and this is just my speculation based on some comments from Girardi, that the Yankees want to have two lefties in the pen which is why if it were to come down to Lewis/Cabral vs Claiborne that the lefty would have the edge.

        • Jorge Steinbrenner

          Thornton would be the first lefty, though.

          • DIrk Diggler

            Yes he would.

            Obviously he’s unproven at the ML level, but I assume Lewis is less of a LOOGY than both Thornton (at this point in his career) and Cabral, yes? Kind of Logan like in that regard?

            • Jorge Steinbrenner

              I have no clue how we could say that. I don’t even know what the dude looks like.

              He could just as easily be Wayne Franklin, my favorite worthless Yankee LOOGY candidate of all time.

  • proday

    I like what I’ve I’ve seen from Burawa in terms of stuff; been consistently 95-97 with a good breaking ball. If he could just refine his command a touch I think he could help the big league pen.

  • willie w

    all I am saying, is give youngsters a chance

    John Lennon

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      Peace, willie. He said “peace.”

      • I’m One

        Peace and Youngsters go hand-in-hand, don’t they?

        • Jorge Steinbrenner

          Said no one ever. :)

        • Havok9120



  • FLYER7

    First edge for a bullpen job will be are you on 40 man roster or how easily can you be placed on 40 man? Outside of maybe one slot cant see team dropping players off short of 60 day DL move…Lewis? Daley? Sizemore? All require a 40 man move…also off second half last season Claiborne is NOT a cinch to make 25 man roster to star season

  • http://riveravenueblues mississippi doc

    And he got shot

  • Mick taylor

    Gil Patterson is having a positive effect on the you g pitchers in the minors

  • Mick taylor

    Danny burawa has a goodarm

  • Mandy Stankiwicz

    I don’t think Betances has enjoyed a full year in the bullpen in his entire MiLB career, so his RP stats are SSS. But I love the hometown kid and like what I’ve seen in his short ST–rooting for him to make an impact in the back of the pen.