TAMPA, Fla. — The Yankees were already expecting to begin their season without a few key players — center fielder Aaron Hicks, and pitchers Luis Severino and C.C. Sabathia. Reliever Dellin Betances joined that list on Tuesday when the Yankees announced that he had an impingement in his right shoulder.
Betances, a right-hander known for his fastball in the high 90s, became a concern in spring training when he registered 88 to 92 m.p.h. on the radar gun.
Betances normally needs time to build up his velocity, but this year his conditioning was further behind than usual. The birth of his first child interrupted Betances’ off-season throwing program, and he arrived a week late to spring training in Tampa.
Betances showed some progress in a simulated game last week, but his velocity took a step back during an appearance in an exhibition game on Sunday. All along, Betances has insisted he felt fine.
Unsettled about his most recent outing, the Yankees and Betances, 30, huddled.
He said he felt no pain but admitted feeling weaker than usual and unable to fully extend his right arm while throwing.
“I was just behind the whole time,” Betances said. “I just thought it would get better, but when I pitched it still felt like I wasn’t there. And we only have a week left, so if I keep pushing myself I don’t think it was going to be the right move.”
Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman said a magnetic resonance imaging examination on Tuesday morning found inflammation in Betances’ shoulder. Betances received a prescription for anti-inflammatory medication and was told to refrain from throwing for at least three days. The Yankees plan to have him on the injured list when they open their season on March 28.
Cashman said Betances’s inconsistent off-season throwing program, plus his rush to catch up when he arrived in camp, had contributed to the ailment.
Betances, a New York City native, has been one of baseball’s best relief pitchers over the past five years, which have included four All-Star selections. He had 607 strikeouts and a 2.22 earned run average in that span, including a 2.70 E.R.A. last season.
Cashman said the team believed that Betances would return to form after a short timeout. Among the Yankees’ injuries, Severino’s appears to be the longest-term; he is expected to be out until May.
“We’ve taken hits,” Cashman said, and added later: “When you’re dealing with them, it’s about the degree of hits. Although they’re down now, they’re going to be coming back.”