DENVER -- Rockies closer Rafael Betancourt appears to have put his slow-starting ways in the past. Heading into Monday against the Dodgers, the final game of April, Betancourt had a 1.00 ERA in nine appearances, and was 6-for-6 on save opportunities. Betancourt had struggled in the first halves of the last three seasons, and in 2009 and '10 he had twin 5.40 ERAs. The good news is each of those seasons, starting with 2009 when he joined the Rockies in a trade with the Indians, he finished as one of the most productive relievers in the Majors.
A good April could be a positive sign. But Betancourt, who celebrated his 37th birthday on Sunday by pitching a scoreless ninth inning and keeping the score tied in the Rockies' 6-5, 11-inning loss to the Mets, isn't much for looking for omens. "What I'm trying not to do right now is think about it," Betancourt said. "April, May or June, I don't want to think about it. I'm going day by day, doing my job when I'm pitching. If I start thinking about it, it's just too much stuff in my head. There's no reason for that. "And you want to get to the next level. Come in every day, work. It's a long season. There are going to be ups and downs, but you want to be on the same line all the time." For the most part, Betancourt has lived up to his trademark pinpoint location, with seven strikeouts to two walks and a .182 batting average against. From the 2011 All-Star break until the end of last season, Betancourt walked just one batter, and from the 2011 break through Sunday's appearance, the average against him was .107. Before taking over as closer in August, Betancourt had struggled when asked to close games. But he went 8-for-9 after Huston Street (now with the Padres) was injured last season, and has picked up with the same effectiveness. "Rafael Betancourt thrives on responsibility, and he understands the responsibility we've given him," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. "If he can continue to put together a solid first half and follow it up with some of the second halves we've seen, this has a chance of being something special."