Sunday, March 16, 2014

By: Gavin Ewbank | Lead Writer

After coming into spring training with an outside shot at making the Yankees' bullpen to open the season as the second left hander behind Matt Thornton, Manny Banuelos was optioned to the Single-A Tampa Yankees Sunday afternoon.

It's worth noting that just because he was optioned to Tampa, it doesn't necessarily mean he'll start the season there.

Yankees GM Brian Cashman said that he is still thinking about Banuelos will actually begin his 2014 season, though, it could be in Tampa.

“We’re still talking about (where to have him start the season), so whatever team we assign today, doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the team he’s going to be with,” Cashman said. “We’re going to take into account weather and everything else and what’s best. Obviously the arm strength’s there. I think he’s a little rusty, which is understandable. We’ll see how the rest of minor league camp goes before the actual placement will take place.”

Banuelos last took the mound for the second time this spring on Friday, facing the Minnesota Twins in Tampa. He entered the game in the 6th inning and loaded with bases with a single and two walks. He was able to get a strikeout, but a ground-rule double that plated a pair of runs was where he day ended.

Fred Lewis replaced him and gave up a pair of runs that were charged to Banuelos, putting him at four earned runs on the day, seven total this spring in one full inning worth of work.

Banuelos struggled with him control from the start, obviously, with the two walks.

“I think at the start it looked like he was scattered a little bit, and then he found it,” Yankees manager for the weekend Rob Thomson said after the game. “They got some soft hits off him, too. I’m just, for me, I’m just happy to see him out there.

“He’s been out for a long time. He hasn't had many outings. So I’m just happy that he’s out there and he’s throwing the ball. He’s going to have success because he’s got a good arm and he’s a tough kid, and we've just got to wait a while, that’s all.”

Coming back from an elbow surgery that he underwent almost two years ago, it was a long-shot for Banuelos to actually make the Yankees’ bullpen out of spring training. He first appearance last week was his first game action since the surgery, so he still has a ways to go in his comeback.

Banuelos is rated as one of the best pitching prospects in the Yankees’ farm system, and as a projected starter — a possible No. 2 or 3 — it could be key for him to pan out the way people think he should.


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