First Pitch: Season savior? Manny B

May, 21, 2012
5/21/12
6:00
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This is in the infant stages of its development, but the man who could be the Yankees' starting pitching savior is Manny Banuelos.

First, let's look at what has happened with Banuelos since the start of spring training to fully understand where he has been this year, where he is now, and where he needs to go to make this headline prophetic in a few months.

The Yankes banished Banuelos, 21, from major league camp early in spring training. Situated in the clubhouse next to CC Sabathia to learn at the big man's wing, Banuelos could not find the strike zone and soon was sent across the street to work with the rest of the kids.

Banuelos continued this poor pitching and lack of control to begin his minor league season. In his first two Triple-A starts, Banuelos was 0-1 with a 10.13 ERA. He gave up 14 hits and six earned runs in 5 1/3 innings. Banuelos eventually ended up on the disabled list with a bad back.

Since coming back, Banuelos has been very good. In his first 14 2/3 innings, he allowed just one earned run while striking out 15 and, most importantly, walking none. His last time out, he reverted back to his early-season form, going four innings and allowing five runs, all earned. He gave up four hits and walked three.

So there is still a long way to go from here to the Bronx for Banuelos, but the Yankees could possibly turn to him by the end of July or August. For that to happen, Banuelos has to dominate at Triple-A, which he was starting to do before the last hiccup.

When you look at how the Yankees can and will improve the starting pitching this season, Banuelos' continued development might be the most important factor. If they were to make a major blockbuster trade, he could be a big chip, or Banuelos might eventually prove to be the answer.

UP NOW: My column on Alex Rodriguez and his Samson-like deterioration. Plus, I say that maybe Joe Girardi should -- gasp! -- try something unconventional with his lineup. Matt Ehalt with loads of blog on Sunday's festivities below, including a bad sign for Brett Gardner.

ON DECK: Wally Matthews has you covered for the first of three against the Royals. Hiroki Kuroda (3-5, 4.50) vs. Felipe Paulino (1-1, 1.93); Phil Hughes (3-5, 5.23) vs. Luke Hockevar (3-4, 7.02); Andy Pettitte (1-1, 2.51) vs. TBA.

IN THE HOLE: Katie Sharp will have the usual What2Watch4 around noon.

QUESTION OF THE DAY: How much faith do you have in the Yankees' current starters?
Andrew Marchand is a senior writer for ESPNNewYork. He also regularly contributes to SportsCenter, Baseball Tonight, ESPNews, ESPN New York 98.7 FM and ESPN Radio. He joined ESPN in 2007 after nine years at the New York Post. Follow Andrew on Twitter »

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Masahiro Tanaka
WINS ERA SO IP
13 2.77 141 136
OTHER LEADERS
BAJ. Ellsbury .271
HRB. McCann 23
RBIB. McCann 75
RB. Gardner 87
OPSB. Gardner .749
ERAH. Kuroda 3.71
SOH. Kuroda 146