PORT ST. LUCIE – Between the shoulder impingement and torn Achilles that limited him to facing all of two major league batters last season, it might be reasonable to wonder whether Dellin Betances will be ready for the start of 2020.
But the Mets’ new bullpen addition isn’t asking himself the same question.
“I’ll be ready for Opening Day,” the veteran reliever said Tuesday following a workout at Clover Park.
Betances, who received a one-year contract worth $10.5 million from the Mets, said he conducted a standard offseason program, but with more attention to his left ankle, on which he sustained an Achilles tear in September as he hopped in celebration of a second straight strikeout to begin his season for the Yankees. Betances had spent the previous five months recovering from a shoulder impingement.
The Mets want to receive the 2018 version of Betances, who was still regarded among MLB’s premier setup men. In that season he appeared in 66 games for the Yankees and pitched to a 2.70 ERA and 1.050 WHIP.
Now he will attempt to resurrect his career pitching across town in a new league.
“I have heard a lot of people say, ‘National League, you have just got to be aware of the ups and downs,’ ” Betances said. “I think sometimes the lineup switches, you have to be more aware of that and pay a little more attention to the game early on. I will try to ask as many questions as I can to the guys who have been here for a while here, so try to learn from them.”
It’s a bullpen that grossly underperformed, with Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia as the biggest disappointments. Both relievers have arrived to spring training citing their offseason dedication to nutrition and fitness as reasons they will improve. In Familia’s case that has meant shedding 30 pounds.
Seth Lugo, Justin Wilson and Brad Brach are other key components of that bullpen.
“The stuff is there, definitely electric stuff in the bullpen in both righties and lefties,” Betances said. “I am definitely excited to join this group, I think we could be special with the guys we have. We have a couple of guys that saved over 50 games – I don’t think many teams can say that, so I am definitely excited to be a part of it. Health is a big key for all of us and I can’t wait.”
Betances, 31, indicated in December that his relationship with then-manager Carlos Beltran was a significant factor in his decision to choose the Mets. Since then Beltran has departed the organization, following MLB’s report that named him in the Astros’ illegal sign-stealing scheme.
But Beltran’s replacement, Luis Rojas, isn’t a complete stranger to Betances.
“I heard a lot of great things and had the chance to meet him. Me from the Dominican Republic, I think it’s an exciting time for the country to have Luis Rojas as the New York Mets manager and I think it’s a big deal,” Betances said.
“Obviously Beltran is a close friend of mine, so I felt bad at the time for him. … But for me I am just excited for our new manager Luis Rojas and I think a lot of the players are excited about him.”
After nearly a decade of spring training workouts across the state in Tampa, Betances will get to see how the other Florida coast lives.
“I spent a lot of years with one organization, but the good thing is that I know a lot of the guys here and I have gotten a chance to meet them,” Betances said. “The organization did a tremendous job a couple of weeks ago with their FanFest, which was the first time for me, a great event for the fans in New York and knowing a lot of the guys I think helped me. It was a good first day.”