With VIDEO: Yankees made choice to skip college easier for Betances
Both options offered a chance to be part of legacy. The Commodores boasted recent a string of recent high-round choices, like Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez and Rays ace David Price. The Yankees, of course, offered heroes both new modern and ancient – from Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio to Don Mattingly, Bernie Williams and Derek Jeter.
But the Thunder rotation’s new flame-throwing monolith grew up a New Yorker – Washington Heights, Manhattan, specifically – and a Yankee fan. So when New York came calling with in the eighth round, the choice was easier than it would have been with any other club.
“Being drafted by the Yankees made it a lot easier,” Betances explained. “It was definitely a tough choice. It took me a little bit to think it through, but I definitely think I made the right decision.”
Now, after an unexpected promotion, he’s been thrust from one playoff team directly into the thick of another with the Thunder. With a set of partially new teammates, Betances has to balance adjusting to the experienced hitters of Double-A with helping Trenton move forward in the hunt for a third Eastern League Championship in the last four seasons.
“I thought I was going to be nervous trying to fit in right away,” he said. “I felt good, man. I talked to some of these guys and get some advice from them on how to pitch these guys. I definitely felt like my stuff was good enough to get those guys out.”
On Tuesday against New Hampshire, after a very brief period of adjustment, Betances proved his stuff would more than suffice against the next level. Using a heater that topped at 97, an impressive change-up and a devastating 12-to-6 hook, the 22-year-old fanned eight Fisher Cats over 4 2/3 innings, including a stretch of seven straight between the third and fifth innings.
He finished with a flourish, getting Matt Liuzza to stare at a true knee-buckler for the second out of the fifth inning. With his refined command, which he credits to work on his mechanics done last year while recovering from ligament reinforcement surgery, Betances has drawn comparisons to a pitcher who evokes awful memories for Yankees fans – Red Sox hurler Josh Beckett.
The Yankees made sure Betances was at last year’s American League Championship against the Angels, as well as the Division Series three years ago against Cleveland. Now, with his career back on the correct path, they hope the next time he’s in the Bronx in October, it will be on the mound.