Dellin Betances: 6 Ways to Sharpen Your Pitching Skills

The following appeared in the January/February edition of Junior Baseball.

Dellin Betances is living a dream as an All-Star pitcher for the New York Yankees.

He was born in the Washington Heights neighborhood in the upper west side of Manhattan, one of the five boroughs of New York City. When he was around 10 years old his family moved to the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
That is when he began playing youth baseball for a team that was named for a Spanish coffee.

“The colors (of the uniforms) were not the best,” Betances said with a smile in an interview during the 2016 season. “That was the first team I played with.”

Betances was a high school baseball star in New York and was chosen in the eighth round by the Yankees in the 2006 draft. He turned down a chance to play for college power Vanderbilt in Tennessee in order to sign with the Yankees.

The hard-throwing pitcher was in the stands at Yankee Stadium when New York lefty David Wells threw a perfect game in 1998. Betances saw several Yankee games in person as a young boy.

“It is a dream come true,” he told Junior Baseball, standing in the Yankees clubhouse during a late season series against the host Baltimore Orioles. “It is very exciting, obviously. I got to watch a lot of these guys growing up.”

Betances worked his way up the minor league ladder of the Yankees and made his Major League debut in September, 2011. He pitched in two games for the Yankees in 2011 and then missed the 2012 season with an injury. He pitched in six games with the Yankees in 2013 and then became one of the best relievers in the game over the next three seasons.

The hard-throwing right-hander, with a strikeout average well over one per inning from 2014-16, was 5-0 with an ERA of 1.40 in 70 games with one save in 2014. The next year he was 6-4 with an ERA of 1.50 in 74 games with nine saves.

In 2016, Betances was 3-6 with an ERA of 3.08 in 73 games, with 12 saves. He became the Yankees closer after the team traded Andrew Miller to Cleveland and Aroldis Chapman to the Chicago Cubs during the 2016 season. Both of those teams made the World Series.

“For me dreams do come true. I grew up watching the Yankees and I got a chance to play for them,” he added. “Don’t ever give up and continue to work hard.”

Through the 2016 season he fanned 404 batters in the majors in 254 2/3 innings with an ERA of 2.16 while posting a record of 14-10. The 2017 season saw Betances bounce between closer and middle reliever as the Yankees loaded up on strong relievers in their bullpen. Nevertheless, he still struck out 100 batters in under 60 innings. Betances shared his pitching tips with Junior Baseball readers.


1. Being able to throw and control the fastball is the best weapon for a young pitcher. “I think one of the keys I try to do is pitch as much on the flat ground as I can,” he said. “Have your partner squat down and work on throwing to both sides of the plate. It is important for a pitcher to establish a good fastball.”

2. It is important for a pitcher to have a good delivery. “For me it is being able to repeat the delivery. Not everyone has the same mechanics but try to repeat your delivery,” he said.

3. A change up is a good off-speed pitch for a young pitcher, instead of putting force on the elbow with curves and sliders. “I think it is huge, especially if you are a starter. If you have a good change up you can be challenging. I don’t throw one now but I did when I was younger. It is a very important pitch. It creates deception when you throw with a fastball motion,” Betances said.

4. A fastball is a pitch that you can move around in the strike zone. “I think it is important to hit every part of the quadrant,” he said. “It is very important; if you are working with a throwing partner on a daily basis it helps your repetition. It can help you in a lot of ways.”

5. A pitcher needs to be able to cover first base on a grounder to the right side. “For me I try to get there as quickly as I can,” he said. “My momentum sends me on a straight line. As long as you get there as soon as you can.”

6. Once a pitcher throws the ball he becomes an infielder. “You can definitely save yourself a run. That is part of your job as pitcher,” Betances said. “You have to know the situation and know what happens ahead of time in order to back up a base or cover a base. It is very important.”

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