'Special' deliveries: Yankees' bullpen a force

Betances, Miller baffling opponents as they pile up K's, with Aroldis waiting in wings

April 19th, 2016

NEW YORK -- Handing games off to the bullpen has been easier than usual for Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who recognizes that he has the makings of a historic relief crew with Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller -- and soon, Aroldis Chapman -- at his disposal.

"These guys are special," Girardi said on Tuesday. "They're strikeout guys that come in in any situation. You don't want to make a habit of asking them to give you more than three outs, but they're very capable of doing that."

Betances and Miller combined to strike out all six batters they faced in Sunday's 4-3 victory over the Mariners, after striking out six of seven on Saturday. Betances added two more K's around a pair of hits, while Miller fanned one in a clean inning during the Yankees' 3-2 loss to the A's in 11 innings Tuesday.

Viewed as a strength coming into the season, the power bullpen has lived up to that billing. New York's relievers led the Majors with a 13.37 K/9 rate entering Tuesday's action, with Betances and Miller combining to strike out 27 out of the 41 batters they had faced (65.9 percent).

"It's not just Dellin and I. When you add Chapman, it's not going to be just him," Miller said. "It's a good group. I think it's not worth the effort trying to keep up with Dellin in anybody's eyes. It's just not going to happen. He's better than everybody else. I'm glad we've got him."

Betances said that he tries not to pay attention to statistics, which is easier said than done for him, considering he is an active user of social media. Yet even he recognizes that, when 15 of the 18 outs you've recorded have come via strikeout, it is noteworthy.

"Obviously [for] a pitcher, a strikeout, that's like a home run for a hitter," Betances said. "I don't go for a strikeout right away. I try to get quick outs. If I get two strikes, that's when I'm going for it."

The Yankees' bullpen ranked fourth in the Majors with a 2.36 ERA, something it will attempt to improve upon after May 9, when Chapman is set to return from his 30-game suspension.

"I think a lot of teams have realized the importance of the back end of bullpens; not just two guys, but having three, four guys that you can go to," Girardi said. "You used to say, 'Get to the bullpen.' The game's changing a little bit. Sometimes you say, 'Better get to the starter, because the back end is not a lot of fun to face.'"

Chapman's arrival will bump Betances to the seventh inning and Miller to the eighth, an arrangement they both say that they are satisfied with.

"When you add a quality arm like Chapman, I think it sets the tone not only for the team here, but I think for the opposing team," Betances said. "I know they're going to have some fear when they have to face a guy throwing 100-plus [mph]. We'll feed off each other even more when he's here."