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Monday, February 10, 2014
Future is now for three potential aces

By Andrew Marchand

Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, and Manny Banuelos
With pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training on Friday, I'm most curious to watch three young, potential aces. Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and Manny Banuelos are not only the future for the New York Yankees, but they very well could be the present.

Spring training doesn't provide answers for a season, but in some cases it can provide clues. Tanaka, 25, will be introduced on Tuesday at Yankee Stadium, but, like everyone else, I want to see what his world-class splitter looks like.

While Yankees GM Brian Cashman may be lowering expectations, the simple size of Tanaka's contract, $155 million, will make every start he makes an event. So it will be intriguing to see Tanaka on a mound for the first time.

But Pineda and Banuelos may be even more of a must-see. Pineda could show that he is actually healthy after his shoulder surgery and could become some semblance of the pitcher the Yankees thought they acquired in early 2012.

His velocity will be something to examine throughout the spring, because that was the first tipoff two years ago that something was amiss. The Yankees are saying that Pineda still is not clocking it at 97 mph yet, but he may be at 94-95. Generally, location is the last thing to return with shoulders, so we'll see how that's going.

Meanwhile, Banuelos is returning from Tommy John surgery and told ESPN New York last week that he feels just as good as before his operation. Banuelos, not even 23 yet, has an outside shot to be the second lefty in the pen, but more likely will end up at Triple-A preparing to be a major league starter.

After barely pitching for two years, it will be interesting to see if Banuelos has the same life in his arm. Tommy John is seen as a bump in the road these days so Banuelos' elbow figures to be fine, and if that's the case we can begin finding out if he may become a legit MLB starter -- eventually, maybe even an ace.

QUESTION: WHAT ARE YOU MOST CURIOUS ABOUT THIS SPRING?