Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Yankees' Banuelos Makes Spring Debut

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Yankees' Banuelos Makes Spring Debut

Article excerpt

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Not even Chris Carter's three-run homer could ruin the day for Manny Banuelos, for this was no ordinary Grapefruit League appearance.

Seventeen months after Tommy John surgery, the 5-foot-10 lefty finally had climbed a pitching mound in a Yankees uniform and delivered pain-free pitches -- with fastballs reaching 93 mph.

"That was awesome [because] I felt like it was 89, 90 [mph]," Banuelos said, smiling as he recounted his two-thirds of an inning Saturday afternoon against the Houston Astros. "Now, I'm back. Just keep working hard and forget about the past."

At least the promise of a big-time, big-league future still is intact for Banuelos, who followed starter Ivan Nova in the Yankees' 9-6 victory at Osceola County Stadium.

"And we have all the confidence in the world he's going to be much better," said Yankees manager Joe Girardi. "He just has to go out and pitch."

Banuelos turns 23 on Thursday, but he's already three years removed from his eye-popping spring training of 2011, voted the "Most Outstanding Rookie" in camp and ranked 12th on MLB Network's Top 50 Prospects list.

Surgery hasn't stunted the organization's "high ceiling" tag on Banuelos. They still view him as a starter due to his fastball- curveball-change-up combination, though "if he were to help us this year, I can't tell you exactly how [he'd be used]," Girardi said.

For now, Banuelos' spring is about building arm strength and recalling the muscle memory that made him a can't-miss prospect.

On Saturday, Banuelos gave up a leadoff double to Jose Altuve and walked Jason Castro before Carter launched a poorly-located, 1-1 change-up over the left field fence.

"I didn't feel nervous," said Banuelos, who rebounded to strike out George Springer and get Jesus Guzman, his last batter, on a groundout. "The best thing is [my arm] feels great. ... I almost feel like before [surgery]."

At one point, Banuelos asked Francisco Cervelli's opinion of his performance, but the catcher dismissed the results. …

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