Rafael Betancourt could pitch for Colorado Rockies in 2014
Entering the 2014 season, there was a strong argument to be made that the Rockies would benefit from handing the high-leverage roles in the back of the bullpen to younger, fresher arms. It was reasonable to think that it was time for some combination of guys like Rex Brothers and Adam Ottavino to take over the roles.
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Rafael Betancourt had been the closer at age 38. LaTroy Hawkins had taken over at age 41. It only made sense that it would soon be time to groom the next guys for the job.
More and more, it appears like the Rockies might actualy have Betancourt setting up for Hawkins in 2015. Their combined age will be north of 80 next season.
That does not seem like an ideal plan, but then again, things have been so gruesome in the bullpen with everybody else this season that it might not be the worst plan either.
These thoughts come on the heels of the news that we might see Betancourt pitching out of the Colorado bullpen yet this season. Manager Walt Weiss said the following about the situation (as reported by Nick Groke of the Denver Post):
"Rafael Betancourt, the Rockies’ former closer who is rehabbing after Tommy John surgery on his injured right pitching elbow last September, on Sunday moved up the Triple-A from rookie-level Grand Junction.“He’s building himself up,” Weiss said. “We’ll see if there’s an opportunity to get him in the mix down the stretch.”"
To indulge the cliche, the Rockies truly have nothing to lose at this point, especially considering the fact that this year’s bullpen, complete with its 4.94 ERA as a group, has made us all feel like this:
In his last full season of action (2012), Betancourt recorded 31 saves with a 2.81 ERA in 60 appearances. In his injury-shortened 2013 campaign, Betancourt posted a 4.08 ERA in 32 games with 16 saves. It was at that point that we all called for Rex Brothers to take over, in case you needed a reminder of how cruel this game of baseball can be.
There was some doubt that Betancourt would ever be able to pitch again after he underwent Tommy John surgery so late in his career. He made it clear that he only intended to return if it could be for the Rockies. It only makes sense for them to reciprocate that interest and see what he’s got.
Even acknowledging the risk with Betancourt at age 39, this is a low-risk development with a guy who has a proven track record. And hey, it worked with LaTroy, right?