Until last spring, Manny Banuelos had never been to big league camp. That means, until today, Andy Pettitte had never seen the Yankees top lefty prospect.
“That’s the first time I’ve seen him throw,” Pettitte said, after watching Banuelos throw batting practice to a group that included Alex Rodriguez. “He looks great, man. The ball just explodes coming out of his hand… You never know what anybody’s going to do until they get to the big league level, and they go out there and they are kind of battle-tested, you know what I’m saying? You can talk about people all you want, but he looks great. His stuff looks great. He’s just got a live arm, and from what I hear, he’s got a chance to do some good things. Obviously, I haven’t even had a chance to meet him yet, but I’ll try to introduce myself to him and talk to him, and if I can do anything to help him I would love to be able to do that, that’s for sure.”
Dellin Betances pitched immediately after Banuelos, on the same mound. Two top prospects with a lot of eyes on them before their expected assignment to the minor league complex. I’ve had people ask me how they look, and the truth of the matter is, it’s hard for me to say. Right now they’re blowing pitches past big league hitters, but it’s too early to know what that means. Derek Jeter literally refuses to swing during these early BP sessions.
“I think both (Banuelos and Betances) are improved,” Joe Girardi said. “I think they’re more consistent in the strikes they throw, in their mechanics, the quality of the pitches they throw. I can see it.”
A lot of people have seen the talent, but Pettitte has actually seen the path it takes to go from minor league prospect to big league standout.
“The difference between pitching at the Triple-A level, the minor-league level, and making the jump to the big leagues is obviously being able to repeat your mechanics and the consistency to be able to throw the ball on the corner,” Pettitte said. “You can’t throw the ball down the middle of the plate. That is so hard to do. It’s the repetition, the work in the bullpen, how seriously you have to take that bullpen work. Then mentally, trying to get to the place where you’re doing that kind of work like you’re in the game, because then it comes down to who can make the pitches in the crucial time during the game. That’s what separates good and great pitchers from being mediocre or being a Triple-A pitcher. It’s such a fine line, and it’s so hard. Sometimes all you need is an opportunity. You have to work hard. I know everybody says that, but a lot of it is a mental approach and mental makeup, the mental aspect than anything physical.”
Associated Press photo of Banuelos