ST. LOUIS -- Rafael Betancourt has dealt with some struggles recently that can be blamed on sporadic opportunity, but overall he has improved.
Betancourt, 36, entered the season as the closer, though there was concern about his performances before the All-Star break each of the last two years after the Rockies acquired him from the Indians in 2009. In 2010 he had a 5.06 ERA and a .293 batting average against before the break; last year those numbers were 4.84 and .281.
This year, Betancourt has converted 13 of 17 save chances, with three of the blown saves coming in his last six attempts. He also has held opponents to a .223 batting average and has a 3.03 ERA. But the Rockies have struggled mightily since early June, which means he couldn't count on consistent chances.
Betancourt, the setup man to Huston Street (now a Padres All-Star) before this season, admitted that in the past he went through low-confidence periods. He has been more even-keeled this season.
"That's something you learn," Betancourt said. "The last couple of years, and even when I was with the Indians, I had those periods where I lost confidence. This year, after every inning I pitch, I try not to think about what happened in bad games. I just try to come back the next day, and if I have the opportunity to pitch, I'll be ready. It's something I'm doing different this year."
Betancourt realizes that he can't control whether he has save chances, so he puts his energy toward supporting his fellow pitchers, and he is a valuable source of information in the bullpen during games.
"I know we've had some injuries [in the starting rotation], and it's been tough," Betancourt said. "We've lost too many games. We just need to keep playing. The wins are going to come.
"For me, every outing has to be focused. It doesn't matter if it's a save opportunity or not. The guys are trying real hard. It's not how any save situations I have, it's how many wins we get. If it's a save situation, that's fine. If not and I can come in and we win the game, that's fine, too."