(Courtesy of the AP)
(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)
Months back, I wrote a post advocating for Manny Banuelos' inclusion in the Spring Training rotation competition if he was healthy enough to do so. My thinking was that if he showed no ill effects from the Tommy John Surgery that cost him his 2013 season, he offered more upside as the 5th starter than anybody else the Yankees had in-house. I didn't expect the Yankees to deviate from their cautious plan with ManBan, but I would have been fully on board with the idea if they did.
As it turns out, there were plenty of ill effects from Banuelos' TJS on display in his 2 Spring Training outings, although none that were physical or arm-related, and ManBan made it easy for the Yankees to cut him from Major League camp yesterday morning and assign him to High-A Tampa camp. While his fastball velocity was encouraging in the low 90s, his command wasn't there on any of his pitches and Banuelos got knocked around for 7 ER on 4 H and 3 BB in 1.0 total IP over his 2 appearances. Like most other pitchers who come back from TJS, ManBan has a long way to go to regain the feel for his stuff and the best place to start doing that is in the Minors.
With so much work to do to regain his form, the talk right now is about whether or not to keep Banuelos in High-A ball to start the season. The weather would be warmer, which would ease any lingering concerns about sending his surgically-repaired elbow up to SWB to pitch in the colder temperatures for a few weeks, and the lower level of competition would allow Banuelos to work on things without the risk of getting shelled like he did in ST. ManBan told reporters yesterday that he was excited to get back to a regular routine, something he wasn't doing working short outings out of the bullpen in Major League camp, and for now it sounds like the Yankees are going to let him work as a starter.
Cash did leave the opportunity open for Banuelos to help the Major League club in a relief role later in the year, and if it comes to that the Yanks shouldn't hesitate to utilize ManBan in that capacity if he can help. But long-term the goal should still be a spot in the rotation, and it's good to see the Yankees setting ManBan up to ease back into a starter's routine this year. He just turned 23 last Thursday, so he's still got plenty of time to get back to where he was and prove that he was worth all the high praise and top prospect rankings he was receiving a few years ago. If that takes a full season of building his workload and command back up and working back up the ladder to the Triple-A rotation, so be it.