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Yuniesky Betancourt Is On A Short Leash

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Last Wednesday:

Shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt’s game hasn’t changed this spring, which isn’t a good thing. The team has been stressing "count management" – taking bad pitches, swinging at good ones – and small ball while batting Betancourt second. “Have I seen a change in Yuni? No,” Wakamatsu said. “We’re going to let him go down his road a little longer, then show him why he needs to change.”

Yesterday:

Anyhow, Wakamatsu singled out Betancourt as part of the overall sloppiness seen on the field from the M's today. Seattle committed four errors and failed to catch up to a number of balls that dropped into play.

Today:

On the hitting side, Yuniesky Betancourt was mentioned prominently yet again. Wakamatsu was quick to state that Betancourt had seen only four pitches in three at-bats against the Cubs at Mesa, Ariz. the other day. Wakamatsu then added that he was pleased yesterday to see Betancourt see a half-dozen pitches in his first at-bat before notching a single.

Betancourt's errors came up again too. He'd better kick things into gear because he's quickly making an impression on his new coaching staff and not in the best of ways.

If you ask anyone right now, they'll tell you that Betancourt is the odds-on favorite to go into Opening Day as the starting shortstop. As well they should. Yuni's the incumbent with a good deal of both raw physical talent and experience, and players in his position tend to be difficult to unseat. Seldom do you see someone take a job away from a 27 year old regular.

With Yuni, though - he seems to be trying his damndest to give Ronny Cedeno a fighting chance. Despite spending the offseason training with Raul Ibanez, it's March now and Yuni is again catching flak for his lack of discipline at the plate and his lack of focus in the field. You know, the same criticisms he was getting a year ago. And given that this is a brand new coaching staff working under a brand new front office, Yuni's blowing his first impression. There's no loyalty there. There's no one who's going to give Yuni the benefit of the doubt because they've seen him perform at a high level before. There are just people waiting to be impressed by their shortstop, and so far it hasn't been happening.

Yuniesky Betancourt needs to shape up, and he needs to shape up soon. I don't think it's fair to call Cedeno the favorite, and, gun to my head, I don't think we're going to reach that point, but the word is out that the people in charge aren't very happy with Yuni, and there's a thin line between trying to light a fire under a guy and giving his job to someone else. Keep an eye on this story. It may not be getting as much press as the closer competition, but in the long run, it's likely to be a good deal more important.