In his first year back from Tommy John surgery, Manny Banuelos has been extremely limited so far this season. He’s made seven starts, and all have been cutoff at three innings (with one exception, when he simply didn’t last that long). He’s pitched well — more than a strikeout per inning, only three walks so far, a .182 opponents’ batting average since his promotion to Double-A — but the the Yankees are treating him with kids gloves through this first month plus.
That’s because they want to feel free to let him loose later in the season.
“He’ll increase over the course of the year,” vice president of baseball operations Mark Newman said. “We don’t want to cut back at the end of the year. You never know, if he makes great progress, maybe he’s a major league option (at some point). We don’t’ want to run out of innings by September 1 or August 1.”
Because of the surgery, and because he’s never thrown more than 129.2 innings in a season, Banuelos will not be allowed to throw the equivalant of a full season. He will inevitably be limited at some point, and the Yankees would rather he be limited now — while he’s a minor leaguer knocking the rust off — rather than late in the season when he could very well be one of the Yankees 12 best pitchers and a legitimately useful piece in New York.
It’s kind of the opposite of the way the Yankees handled Michael Pineda. With Pineda, the Yankees knew they couldn’t get 200 innings this season, but as long as he was helping at the major-league level, the Yankees weren’t going to significantly limit Pineda’s workload until they had to. With Banuelos, there’s no harm in limiting the workload now so that he’s fully available later.
Newman said that Banuelos will be a normal starter next season. For now, the Yankees are basically picking their battles with him.
“We’re going to make sure we have enough innings left at the end of the year,”
ANOTHER LATE-SEASON POSSIBILITY
Another pitcher who could play a big league role late in the season is veteran reliever Andrew Bailey, who is at the minor league complex rehabbing his way back from Tommy John surgery.
Signed this spring, Bailey is still doing a throwing program to build arm strength and is not yet throwing bullpens.
“He’s a ways away,” Newman said. “But we’re going to keep working at it because obviously he could be a big factor for us.”
Plenty more minor league notes from Newman coming soon. The word count was getting completely out of control, so I decided to pull out the Banuelos stuff as it’s own post. We’ll hit on some other minor league items — injury updates, the surgery decision for Jose Campos, the resurgence of Dante Bichette Jr. — a little later.
Associated Press photo