Rafael Betancourt Proving Himself To Rockies (Again)


July 14, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Colorado Rockies relief pitcher Rafael Betancourt (63) pitches during the ninth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

There’s a great piece up on the Rockies’ website right now about Rafael Betancourt making his case to become a member of the bullpen this summer.

Betancourt, of course, missed last season recovering from Tommy John Surgery, and at 40 years old, he was doubtful to ever return to the big leagues after going under the knife. As long as he’s played, he could’ve theoretically stayed home; he’s done enough in the game, he doesn’t need the money, and he’s got children.

But he loves the game, he’s professional and a great competitor, he’s here, and for better or worse, the Rockies are going to need him.

I’m already on the record stumping for Brooks Brown to earn a bullpen spot for Opening Day, and I’m not changing my mind. I still think Brown deserves a spot, but a spot can open up for Betancourt, too.

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LaTroy Hawkins, John Axford, Boone Logan, Christian Friedrich and Adam Ottavino are locks to make the bullpen. Rex Brothers probably is, too, even though he’s scuffling as Spring Training comes to a close.

The Rockies would probably open with seven relievers, which means there’s one spot open to choose from Betancourt and Brown (the third candidate, Scott Oberg, has blown up a bit the last few days and considering he’s never pitched above AA before is probably destined to start in the minors, I’d imagine).

But, the Rockies could open with eight relievers, as the article alludes to, meaning both Betancourt and Brown would presumably make the club. And if they decide Brothers isn’t ready to be in the big leagues on Opening Day, or something weird like that? Spots for Betancourt and Brown.

Plus, with Tommy Kahnle and Jairo Diaz down on the farm, too, the Rockies have a little bit of bullpen depth all of a sudden! It’s not the best in the league, but, um, it’s something?

Anyways, I know, the cynics among us look at Betancourt and Hawkins and wonder how the Rockies can possibly let two 40+ year old guys toss important innings at the end of games, especially in addition to struggling Brothers and oft-injured Logan. That’s a fair point, and maybe a Betancourt/Hawkins combo will fall on its face spectacularly.

But, like I mentioned at the top of the post, it’s not like Betancourt’s here for money. (I’d assume. I mean, I don’t know his personal financial situation, but he’s made at least $23 million in his career to date.) He chose to have surgery and rehab when he could have walked away. And considering how highly Rockies officials speak of him as a competitor and a person, he seems to be here for the right reasons. His intrinsic motivation alone should be very attractive.

Regarding Brothers, too, I speculate here that Brothers has been (and could be) helped by Betancourt’s presence. In fact, in this interview from earlier today on Rockies.com, Brothers (very quickly) speaks glowingly of Betancourt. Could Betancourt’s presence in the bullpen re-focus Brothers like it had before 2014? Maybe? That alone would make Betancourt worth it for a while!

We’ll know what happens with Betancourt, Brothers, Brown, and the rest of the ‘pen soon enough. For now, all I can say is Betancourt’s presence on the roster is looking more and more attractive to me. I’d feel a little uneasy if it’s at the expense of Brown’s roster spot, but if Betancourt can help Brothers re-focus himself, well, it’d be worth it.