SCOTTSDALE, Arizona - Throughout the course of nine seasons in the Major Leagues, and many more in the world of baseball, Rafael Betancourt has been many things: infielder, then he was turned to pitcher; a starter, a reliever.
But now he's facing yet another challenge: becoming a full-time closer. He proved to the Rockies he could do the job in mid-August after assuming the role due to an emergency with Huston Street.
But he's also a mentor and a quiet leader for several pitchers.
"Raffy has been like a father to me ever since I got here," said reliever Edgmer Escalona, also a Venezuelan. "He has taught me many things as a pitcher and a person, he has straightened me out so many times. I will always be thankful to him for orienting for all these years now".
Betancourt, always a professional, says he knows there are things yet to work on.
"I always try to pitch as many strikes as possible, and I'll do whatever is necessary in order to achieve that. I want to keep on having reasons to have my confidence whenever I step into the mound. You want to [get] batters out throughout the season. Well, Spring Training is the chance to work on your repertoire so you then use it in the best way possible," Betancourt said.
A respected trio
For many years, Betancourt has had the indirect role of leading the way for Escalona and many others. However, this season he won't be alone: the arrival of Marco Scutaro and Ramón Hernández not only provides the Rockies with three veterans with character, but for the 37-year-old hurler, this closes out a few circles.
"It's very special for me having Marco and Ramon with us, not just because they are Venezuelan. Ramón and I played together when we were kids back in our native city of Cumaná. Both Marco and I were rookies at the Venezuelan League some years ago with Caribes de Oriente in the winter. Marco always performs like the best of them. And that's always been the way he plays ever since we belonged to the same club in Venezuela. I'm so proud to have them next to all of us, and I'm glad to count with them at this stage of my career," Betancourt said.
"I'm absolutely sure everybody will get along with them. They are amazing ballplayers but most of all, they are excellent people you can count on."