First game in nearly two years, and the first three hitters Manny Banuelos faced were a double, a walk and a three-run home run. After the triumphant return of Michael Pineda last night, the Banuelos spring debut was surely a let down. Except, you couldn’t find anyone in the Yankees clubhouse to put it that way.
“It was awesome,” Banuelos said. “I just got the great feelings and all. I almost forgot that. Now I’m just happy.”
Obviously that word “awesome” is meant in a larger context than a one-game pitching line. Two-thirds of an inning with two hits, three earned runs, one walk and one strikeout is hardly “awesome,” but Banuelos had not faced opposing hitters since May 18, 2012. He’s still only 22 years old, he’s missed more than a year and a half because of Tommy John surgery, and today his fastball was at 93 mph.
“I was happy for him that he got out there,” Joe Girardi said. “He threw some strikes. It’s been a long road back, and he had a smile on his face because I think you appreciate a lot more. When you lose something for a while, you appreciate it a lot more when you come back.”
If the hope was that Banuelos would plow through the Astros lineup and immediately make a case for a spot in the big league bullpen, well then today was a disappointment. Banuelos faced, arguably, the three best hitters in the Astros lineup. Jose Altuve doubled, Jason Castro walked and Chris Carter hit a changeup for a three-run homer before Banuelos had gotten a single out.
Next batter was a strikeout, then a ground ball, then Banuelos had thrown his allotment of pitches.
“I’m so happy,” Francisco Cervelli said. “Two days in a row, to see Pineda yesterday and Manny (today). I know that he’s been working so hard because we were together (rehabbing) at the complex, and I know the frustration and everything. He was so good. He had the speed. He just needs confidence and we’ll get back.”
Until today, Banuelos had no idea how hard he was throwing. He said he expected 89-90 mph. The Yankees told him it was 93. He feels strong. He feels healthy. He feels happy, even after an outing that — in almost any other circumstance — would have left him feeling a massive sense of disappointment.
“The thing was not like I wanted,” he said. “But the best thing is I feel healthy. I feel very strong in that inning. I got (only) two outs, but for being the first time after surgery and for two years, that’s awesome for me. … This is the best thing. I work for this, to get back on the mound. Now I’m back so just keep working hard and forget the past.”
Associated Press photo