Betancourt set as Rockies’ eighth-inning specialist
The Denver Post
TUCSON – When reliever Rafael Betancourt arrived in Denver last July, his right groin hurt so badly he wasn’t sure he could pitch. He thought it could be a sports hernia. He was worried it would require surgery.
“But I had a big responsibility when the Rockies traded for me. They really wanted and needed me,” said the 34-year-old, who was acquired from Cleveland for a minor- league prospect. “I didn’t want to let them down.”
Betancourt instead propped up the bullpen, providing a sturdy bridge to closer Huston Street. It’s hard to find a player who thinks the Rockies would have reached the postseason without Betancourt. Not only did he post a 1.78 ERA in 32 games, but with fire alarms blaring and the season teetering, Betancourt registered the club’s biggest save in a Sept. 16 win at San Francisco.
When looking for reasons the Rockies can improve and win their first-ever National League West title, Betancourt’s presence for a full season is near the top of the list.
“He makes us all better,” Street said. “You know what you are going to get from him.”
Betancourt became a free agent this winter and nearly left the Rockies. But after weighing serious offers from the Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers, the right-hander accepted the Rockies’ salary arbitration and eventually signed a two-year, $7.55 million deal.
“There were no bad words, no bad feelings. It was a process where I wanted to see what was out there,” Betancourt said. “But I didn’t want to screw my life up and leave a place where I was so comfortable.”
Reliability, the Rockies like to say, is a player’s best ability. Betancourt’s consistent performance serves two purposes: It helps define roles around him and gives manager Jim Tracy the freedom to mix and match earlier in games.
“We have seen it from the other side when a team has a great bullpen. There’s a sense of urgency that you have to beat them in the first seven innings,” first
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baseman Todd Helton said. “We have guys out there who are filthy.”
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.