When you’re 21 years old and feel on the verge of a dream come true, two years becomes a long time to wait. And Manny Banuelos is ready for the wait to be over.
“It was two years ago,” Banuelos said this morning in the Yankees clubhouse. “That was a long time. I remember I tried to compete, but I had bad outings because my command wasn’t that good, so they sent me down to Triple-A. I tried to work hard and do whatever I can, but after I got hurt, I can’t do anything. … I thought (that) was my big chance. But I have a chance now, and I want to work hard to get to the big leagues. If I don’t make the team here, try to get a call-up soon.”
Banuelos turned 21 during that 2012 spring training, when he became an on-the-verge prospect sensation in big league camp. He didn’t break camp with the Yankees, but he seemed well on his way. He went to Triple-A and lasted six starts. By the end of the year, he had Tommy John surgery.
“I’ve got to be positive every day, because when I got hurt, when I had my surgery, I thought my career was over,” he said. “But if I work hard, I can come back, and I think I did.”
Late last year, Banuelos was throwing simulated games at the Yankees minor league complex. He took roughly two months to rest this offseason, and began playing catch in late November. He’s been encouraged by his early bullpens here in Tampa — “Everything is the same,” he said. “I want to know about my velocity now, but it feels strong.” — and he’ll face hitters in live batting practice on Wednesday. Now on the verge of turning 23, Banuelos said he considers himself a legitimate candidate for the fifth starter spot. If not that, he’d be perfectly happy to break camp as a big league reliever.
“When I was doing my sim games, I was a little bit scared to throw the ball, especially my breaking balls,” Banuelos said. “After that rest, it feels normal. … After two long years, now I feel ready.”
· Word is that J.R. Murphy actually goes by the name John Ryan. The Yankees are now listing him that way on the spring training roster, and his locker nameplate says “John Ryan Murphy” instead of J.R. Murphy. Reminds me of when Phil Hughes was called “Philip” during his first few years in the minor league system. It got listed that way early on, and he was a kid coming up, so he never corrected anyone.
· Most of the position player lockers are empty at the moment, but a select few have jerseys hanging in them. And that might be a good sign for Eduardo Nunez. The players with a jersey already hanging in their locker: Nunez, Ellsbury, Ryan, Johnson, Teixeira, Beltran, Jeter, Gardner, Soriano and Ichiro. Brian Roberts doesn’t have a jersey, but he does have every other piece of the uniform already in his locker. Those could be the guys who actually break camp with the team. None of the other position players — non-catchers — has a jersey at the moment.
· Pretty good set of bullpens happening later this morning. Each of the Yankees top four starters will be in the bullpen today.
· A handful of guys threw early light sides this morning, including Chase Whitley, who’s an interesting case as a candidate for the big league bullpen. He’s been used for multiple innings in the minors, and has pitched well in Triple-A for two years now, but if he doesn’t make the big league bullpen there’s a chance he’ll be stretched out as a starter. Whitley said the Yankees have told him the Triple-A rotation is a possibility, but it’s still pretty up in the air. He’ll focus on being a bullpen candidate for the time being. I’ve known Whitley for a couple of years, but just found out today that he was primarily a third baseman in college. Didn’t pitch full-time until he came to the Yankees.
· Had a very brief conversation with David Herndon, one of several veteran relievers in camp on a minor league deal and trying to break through in this wide open bullpen. Herndon was a solid Phillies reliever in 2011, and he was back with them in 2012 before needing Tommy John surgery. He had some controlled innings late last year, but Herndon said now he feels back to 100 percent with absolutely no discomfort in his elbow.
· The Yankees started their orientation meeting at 9:30. There will be bullpens and batting practice later this morning. Pitchers who aren’t throwing bullpens will do their throwing program and fielding drills.
· Today’s early sides:
Preston Claiborne (to Austin Romine)
Jim Miller (to John Ryan Murphy)
David Phelps (to Francisco Cervelli)
Adam Warren (to Brian McCann)
Dellin Betances (to Gary Sanchez)
Robert Coello (to Pete O’Brien)
Fred Lewis (to Francisco Arcia)
Nik Turley (to Jose Gil)
Chase Whitley (to Roman Rodriguez)
Shane Greene (to McCann)
David Herndon (to Cervelli)
Bryan Mitchell (to Murphy)
Jose Ramirez (to Romine)
· Today’s late-morning bullpens
Hiroki Kuroda (to Murphy)
Ivan Nova (to Romine)
CC Sabathia (to McCann)
Tanaka (to Cervelli)
Bruce Billings (to Sanchez)
Dan Burawa (to Arcia)
Vidal Nuno (to O’Brien)
Francisco Rondon (to Gil)
· Batting practice groups
Group 1: Francisco Arcia, Jose Gil, Pete O’Brien, Gary Sanchez
Group 2: Brian McCann, John Ryan Murphy, Austin Romine, Francisco Cervelli
Associated Press photos