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Should Yankees worry about Betances in World Baseball Classic?

04 September 2016:  New York Yankees relief pitcher Dellin Betances (68) pitches against the Baltimore Orioles at Orioles Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, MD. where the New York Yankees defeated the Baltimore Orioles, 5-2. (Photograph by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire)
(Photograph by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire)

Just before Thanksgiving, Yankees’ closer Dellin Betances chose to play for the Dominican Republic over the United States in the upcoming World Baseball Classic. The Classic, which kicks off on March 6, 2017, was won by the Dominican Republic’s squad in 2013. When explaining his decision, Betances told the New York Post:

“Both teams want me to play [for them], but I made a commitment to the DR. That is where my family is from, and I want to make them proud.”

Either way, Betances would be pitching in the WBC, and this news has spawned some questions about Betances, his usage and how the WBC could possibly affect him, his arm, and his performance in 2017.

Up to this point, the soon-to-be 29-year-old, three-time All-Star has amassed 247 innings in 227 games during the last three seasons—90 IP in 2014, 83 IP in 2015, and 73 IP in 2016.

One thing that concerned the Yankees in 2016 was that Betances seemed to wear down toward the end of the season, which caused his ERA to balloon to 3.08. He had trouble down the stretch when he became the Yankees’ closer after Aroldis Chapman was traded to the Cubs. To counter that concern, Betances has often had trouble with his mechanics and when it happens, he tends to look like a mediocre reliever who gives up solid contact and can’t keep runs off the board, so that also could have been a factor in his performance down the stretch as well. It probably wasn’t only fatigue.

So should the Yankees be concerned about Betances pitching in the World Baseball Classic? The short answer is no, they shouldn’t, but I cannot end this piece now so we will be exploring some of the reasons why the Yankees should be fine with Betances participating in the WBC.

20 September 2016: New York Yankees relief pitcher Dellin Betances (68) delivers a pitch during the Major League Baseball game between the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg Florida. (Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire)

(Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire)

  • TONY PEÑA

The number one reason the Yankees shouldn’t be worried is because Tony Peña is once again managing the squad from the Dominican Republic. Peña is a coach for the New York Yankees and will have strict instructions from the Yankees’ higher ups with regards to Betances’ usage in the World Baseball Classic. He will not pitch Betances’ arm off.

  • THE WBC IS A SPRING TRAINING REPLACEMENT

The World Baseball Classic coincides with Spring Training, so everyone involved will be given the same amount of work they would have gotten from their teams in either the Cactus League or Grapefruit League. During the last WBC in 2013, no team played more nine games in the tournament and if the Dominican Republic team repeats as champions, nine games will be the amount they play. Betances will not pitch in every game.

  • PAST BULLPEN USAGE IN THE WBC

In 2013, relievers threw no more than 7.1 innings under Peña’s guidance during their championship run in the WBC. Fernando Rodney was the closer for the Dominican Republic and he threw those 7.1 innings. Assuming Betances takes the reins as DR’s closer, Pena will be extremely careful with him.

  • USAGE HAS GONE DOWN EVERY YEAR SINCE 2014

Betances’ workload during Spring Training has decreased every year since 2014. That year, he threw 12.1 innings in Spring Training. In 2015, it went down to 8.1 innings, and last year he only pitched 6.2 innings. If we look at 2013 as a guide, look for Betances’ numbers to be slightly higher than 2016’s, but below 2015’s.

All of these factors should put the Yankees at ease when it comes to Betances’ participation in the World Baseball Classic. And sure, they have been burned in the past—Mark Teixeira was injured in 2013 and his season was lost to surgery—but this is a completely different situation. With Tony Peña keeping a close eye on things during the tournament, Betances should be fine.

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