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Notes: Yanks sign Bettis; Higashioka praised

@BryanHoch
February 16, 2020

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Yankees have added another contender to crack their pitching staff, signing right-hander Chad Bettis to a Minor League contract with an invitation to big league Spring Training. The signing was formally announced by the club on Sunday, but Bettis was issued a locker in the Yankees’

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Yankees have added another contender to crack their pitching staff, signing right-hander Chad Bettis to a Minor League contract with an invitation to big league Spring Training.

The signing was formally announced by the club on Sunday, but Bettis was issued a locker in the Yankees’ spring clubhouse on Saturday morning. Bettis will earn $1.5 million if he makes the Major League roster, plus a possible $2 million in performance bonuses, according to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand.

“I know he's going through the gauntlet of MRIs and everything, but my understanding is he should be pretty good to go,” manager Aaron Boone said.

Bettis, who turns 31 in April, was 1-6 with a 6.08 ERA in 39 appearances (three starts) for the Rockies last season -- a campaign shortened by right hip surgery in August. In 63 2/3 innings, Bettis permitted 78 hits and 47 runs (43 earned), issuing 21 walks against 42 strikeouts.

In the wake of an injury that will keep left-hander James Paxton off a big league mound until at least May, the Yankees believe Bettis could compete for the back end of their starting rotation with a crowded group which already includes Luis Cessa, Deivi García, Michael King, Jonathan Loaisiga and Jordan Montgomery. Bettis could also be utilized in a multi-inning relief role.

The seven-year big league veteran owns a 5.12 ERA over his career, having pitched for Colorado from 2013-19. His 59.6 percent ground-ball rate ranked ninth among Major League relievers in '19, according to FanGraphs.

Backup battle
The Yankees are showcasing what Boone views as a “deep catching corps” this spring, with Kyle Higashioka viewed as the front-runner for backup duties behind Gary Sánchez.

“We feel great about Higgy,” Boone said. “We feel like he's been ready for this opportunity now for a while. We're really excited about who he is and now he's out of options, so obviously that factors into things, but we feel like he's very much ready for this opportunity.”

Higashioka, who is out of Minor League options, will be challenged by a trio of veterans with big league resumes: Chris Iannetta, Erik Kratz and Josh Thole. Boone said Higashioka -- now the second-longest tenured player in the organization, behind Brett Gardner -- has earned a reputation as an elite receiver.

“He's special with his hands behind the plate and how he catches the ball,” Boone said. “As far as getting strikes, that's something he's always had and is elite. We like the power, especially against left-handed pitching. He's had some big seasons now in the Minor Leagues, coming off a really good Triple-A season last year. I've seen him grow in his presence year by year. He understands that this is his time.”

Up next
Yankees pitchers and catchers will continue to work out on Sunday at Steinbrenner Field. Admission is free for all workouts through March 20. Gates will open to fans at approximately 10 a.m. ET.

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and Facebook.