TAMPA, Fla. -- After five seasons in the Minors and a brief stint playing independent ball, Yankees left-hander Vidal Nuno, a former 48th-round Draft pick, proved last year that he was capable of pitching in the Majors.
In 20 innings over five games, including three starts, Nuno put together a 2.25 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP. But just when things seemed to be going his way, he was sent back to Triple-A and suffered a season-ending groin injury.
"It's part of the game. The injury occurs. We'll bounce back and try to do that in Spring Training and during the season," Nuno said Tuesday at the Yanks' Minor League complex, where he's been working out and throwing bullpen sessions. "It told me that I can be at that level and pitch and everything. It gave me that motivation for the offseason to work out twice as hard."
The 26-year-old lefty said his groin felt 100 percent during the Arizona Fall League season, when he went 0-1 with a 3.20 ERA in 19 2/3 innings over five games, including four starts. Now, he's back in the mix for the fifth spot in the Yankees' rotation, set to battle it out this spring with Michael Pineda, Adam Warren and David Phelps.
"It's awesome. It's a big family, so pretty much just help each other, go out there every day and enjoy each other and have fun," Nuno said, declining to handicap his chances at winning the job. "Go out there and have fun. If it plays out, it plays out."
Betances excited to compete for bullpen openings
TAMPA, Fla. -- For the first time, Dellin Betances made the journey south for the spring believing he has a real chance to crack the Yankees' Opening Day roster.
This time last year, Betances was just hoping to rebound from an ugly 2012 season. The years before, he knew he needed more time in the Minors. But now, the once-hyped starting-pitching prospect could finally make an impact for the Yanks out of the bullpen.
"I feel like there's a lot of opportunities this year. It's going to be a fun competition," Betances said Tuesday after working out at the Yankees' Minor League complex. "I know a lot of guys are eager to get across the street [for Spring Training]. I'm excited for this year. I know I feel good about myself after last year, and I'll be ready to compete for one of those spots."
With Mariano Rivera retired, David Robertson set to assume the closer role and relievers Boone Logan and Joba Chamberlain gone, there are plenty of jobs available in New York's bullpen. Betances, who will turn 26 in March, has yet to prove himself in the Majors -- in eight appearances between 2011 and '13, he owns a 9.39 ERA -- but he pitched well in relief for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last season.
Betances finished the year 6-4 with a 2.68 ERA and 108 strikeouts in 84 innings over 38 appearances, including six starts. He credited the improvement to the more aggressive mentality and consistent work that comes along with being a reliever, as opposed to pitching every five days and having to get into the groove of a start.
Once hailed alongside Manny Banuelos and Andrew Brackman as one of the "Killer B's," the future of the Yanks' rotation, Betances said he's simply looking to contribute to the big league club however he can.
"As of right now, I'm in the bullpen, so I'm kind of going into that role. Later on ... if they want me to start, I'll start. But right now, the bullpen is where they want me at, and I'm happy there," Betances said. "I'm still here, so this year will be exciting. Manny's coming back. He's healthy now. Last year, he was going through his rehab process with Tommy John [surgery]. But he feels good now and I've seen him throw a bullpen [session]. He looks real strong. I'm happy to see him back.
"I feel strong and I feel ready to compete. Hopefully this year we'll both be up there, if not right away, at some point in the year, and hopefully we can help the team win. That's our goal."
Betances still has one Minor League option remaining, meaning he can be sent down if he doesn't earn a spot -- or can't keep one -- in the Yankees' bullpen. So the Yanks can keep him around even if he's not deemed Major League-ready before Opening Day, but he said that won't change his attitude this spring.
"If I do what I have to do, the option doesn't mean anything. Then, I have to perform up there. I have to put in the work to keep myself up there if I do make the team," Betances said. "You kind of see it and you might think, 'Oh, man.' But nothing's going to be handed to me, so I have to earn the spot."
Romine eyes chance to learn behind McCann
TAMPA, Fla. -- Austin Romine's chances at making the Yankees' Opening Day roster seemingly took a hit when they signed catcher Brian McCann early this offseason, but Romine is taking the optimistic approach as Spring Training draws near.
"First of all, it's a business. Second of all, I thought it was awesome," the 25-year-old catcher said Tuesday outside the Yanks' Minor League complex. "I get a chance to study and be under a guy that's been an All-Star forever. You'd be stupid not to pick his brain and learn something. I see it as a great opportunity to learn more about this game from a guy that's been around for a long time. I'm actually really excited."
With McCann signed to a five-year deal to be New York's front-line catcher, Romine will compete for the reserve role this spring, alongside Francisco Cervelli and JR Murphy. Romine got his first extended look in the Majors last year, hitting .207/.255/.296 in 148 plate appearances over 60 games. His season ended on Sept. 10, when he was sidelined by a concussion after being hit with a foul ball.
Romine said the symptoms stuck around until about a week after the season ended, but he began working out shortly after that. Another doctor cleared him just before he returned to Florida to begin precamp workouts. While he was back home, Romine said he got in "the best shape I've been in in a while" by working out with his brother, who focused on making the 6-foot, 215-pound backstop quicker on his feet.
Romine said he started going through catching and throwing drills Tuesday, and he plans to catch a few bullpen sessions Wednesday. With Yankees pitchers and catchers set to report Friday and work out Saturday, Romine's battle for the backup-catcher job is about to begin.
"Anyone that told you that they didn't want to be a starting catcher is lying to you. That's my goal. That's been my goal since I was a little kid. Everybody wants to be a starting catcher," Romine said. "Right now, the backup job's open, so that's what you focus on. You get to be behind a guy that's done it all and learn some stuff, and maybe they'll give you a chance."