New York Yankees: Manny Banuelos

Manny Banuelos headed to the minors

March, 16, 2014
Mar 16
1:47
PM ET
TAMPA, Fla. -- Before spring training began, Yankees GM Brian Cashman raised the possibility that Manny Banuelos, the 23-year-old lefty coming off Tommy John surgery, might make the major-league club as the second lefty out of the bullpen with strong showing in camp.

But with a full two weeks left to go -- and with a 63.00 ERA accumulated in two appearances totaling one inning -- the Yankees have decided that the minor leagues is still the place for ManBan. Cashman announced before today's game that Banuelos was being optioned. His first stop will be the Class A Tampa Yankees, so he can take advantage of pitching in warmer weather.

"Whatever team we assign today, doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the team he’s going to be with [for most of the season],'' Cashman said earlier. "We’re going to take into account weather and everything else and what’s best. We’ll see how the rest of minor league camp goes before the actual placement will take place.”

Banuelos was charged with four earned runs in his last outing on Friday against the Twins, but he was victimized by at least one soft hit and two of the runs were allowed to score by Fred Lewis, who relieved him. And the Yankees say Banuelos' fastball has been clocked at 93 MPH. Before those two outings, he had not pitched in a game since 2012.

"Obviously the arm strength’s there,'' Cashman said. "I think he’s a little rusty, which is understandable.''

Banuelos seemed disappointed at having to pack up and re-locate across to the minor league complex this morning, but tried to put the best face on it.

"I think it’s the best thing,'' he said. "Like they say, I’ve got to make progress ... just keep pitching. Get all my pitches to where I can help the team.''

Cashman said the Yankees still viewed Banuelos as a starter over the long-term. And he would not rule out the possibility that Banuelos might still make it to the Bronx sometime this season.

"Like anything else, anybody knocking the bats out of everyone’s hands, especially on the Double-A or Triple-A level, is going to be on the radar to help us,'' he said.
TAMPA -- With a day off on Monday, the Yankees have a lot of regulars in the lineup against the Tampa Rays at Big Stein. The game is on YES.

New York Yankees
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Derek Jeter, SS
Carlos Beltran, RF
Brian McCann, C
Alfonso Soriano, LF
Kelly Johnson, 1B
Brian Roberts, 2B
Ichiro Suzuki, DH
Yangervis Solarte, 3B

David Phelps, P

Tampa Bay Rays

Desmond Jennings, CF
Matt Joyce, LF
Wil Myers, RF
James Loney, 1B
Sean Rodriguez, 3B
Cole Figueroa, 2B
Ryan Hanigan, C
Jose Molina, DH
Jayson Nix, SS

Chris Archer, P

NOTES: Manny Banuelos said he felt fine after his first appearance in nearly two years on Saturday. Banuelos, who had Tommy John surgery, feels he will gain confidence from knowing he was lighting the radar gun up at 93.
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Manny Banuelos waited nearly two years to step on a mound again after Tommy John surgery. So just throwing a pitch was an accomplishment.

The fact that Banuelos gave up a three-run homer to Chris Carter ripped a nice little bow from the story. However, the radar gun readings on Banuelos topped out at 93 and Banuelos' elbow felt fine.

"The best thing is I feel healthy," said Banuelos, still a few days shy of his 23rd birthday.

To begin the fifth, Banuelos allowed a chopped double down the third-base line to Jose Altuve before walking Jason Castro. He next hung a change to Carter, who did what major league home run hitters do.

Banuelos retired the final two batters and, as Joe Girardi noted, he left with a smile. It became a bit larger when he found out his velocity was in the 90s.

"They said it was 3," Banuelos said, meaning 93. "That was awesome. I thought it was 89-90."

Banuelos' pitches still leave his hand like they are on a spring, according to former major league manager and current special assistant Trey Hillman. Girardi mentioned the confidence that Banuelos exudes. He walks around the clubhouse like a big leaguer.

“We believe he has a high ceiling,” Girardi said. “If he were to help us this year, I can’t say how that will be. We are going to look at everything that gives us the best 12-man pitching staff.”

Banuelos could be a big part of a young pitching transformation that might materialize for the organization over the next year and beyond.

On Friday, a healthy-looking Michael Pineda, 25, made an impressive return, highlighted by striking out the best hitter in baseball, Miguel Cabrera. Masahiro Tanaka, 25, has displayed his world-class splitter and seems like he could be a No. 3 or better if expectations don't swallow him up. Ivan Nova, 27, had a 2.70 ERA over his final 16 starts in 2013 when he was clearly the Yankees' best pitcher.

Dellin Betances, who turns 26 this month, has thrown 5 1/3 scoreless innings this spring. He is putting himself in position to make the team as a one- or two-inning reliever.

"Two days in a row," an excited Francisco Cervelli said. "To see Pineda yesterday and Manny, I know that he has been working so hard."

In this game, things can change swiftly. A year ago, the Red Sox were an organization in disarray. Now, they are the world champs.

The Yankees could see their young pitching prospects make that sort of leap in 2014. A weekend in March foretells nothing definitive, but the seeds for October harvests are planted in the baking sun of Florida. So, it is OK for Yankee fans to dream a little about what they're reading, hearing and seeing about these potential comebacks.

Betances is already making a strong impression. Girardi pointed to the 6-foot-8 righty as someone who has stood out thus far.

The Yankees thought Betances could be a top starter, but could settle for him being a top bullpen piece. At Triple-A in 2013, he had a 1.35 ERA over 32 relief appearances, spanning 60 innings.

Betances and Banuelos have remained close, as they've grown up with the hype of being the Killer B's (the third "B," Andrew Brackman, is long gone from the organization).

When Banuelos underwent Tommy John surgery, Betances had some advice for his younger friend. Betances told him to keep a positive mindset, focusing on the fact he is at Triple-A, still just one step away from the big leagues. Betances also emphasized that Banuelos is still very young.

The two hang out all the time in Tampa, going out to eat and playing video games. (Betances wanted to make sure it was mentioned that he consistently beats Baneulos in FIFA soccer.)

The Yankees are considering Banuelos for an Opening Day bullpen spot. More likely -- and more prudently -- Banuelos will begin as the No. 1 starter at Triple-A.

Banuelos might not have gotten the result he wanted Saturday, but he was in the right place.

"Now, I'm back, so I keep working hard and forget the past," Banuelos said.

Killer B comeback?

March, 8, 2014
Mar 8
12:06
PM ET
KISSIMEE, Fla. -- Next up, on the Yankees' young pitching redemption tour -- Manny Banuelos.

Banuelos, who turns 23 next week, will pitch in relief after Ivan Nova.

“We believe he has a high ceiling,” Joe Girardi said of Banuelos, who last pitched in May 2012 and has since undergone Tommy John surgery. “If he were to help us this year, I can’t say how that will be. We are going to look at everything that gives us the best 12-man pitching staff.”

Check back later today as I plan to have a longer post about the possible rejuvenation of the Yankees' young pitchers.

MORE PINEDA: Michael Pineda looked very impressive Friday, striking out Miguel Cabrera and throwing in the low-90s. What did pitching coach Larry Rothschild think?

"He had a good breaking ball," Rothschild said. "He had some power in his arm. That is a good combination. It is a good step in the right direction."

TEX TEST: Mark Teixeira will start his second exhibition game. ... Masahiro Tanaka is scheduled to throw a simulated game Tuesday. He said he thinks it will be a good learning experience, because he has never pitched in one before. Tanaka will make his next exhibition start at Steinbrenner Field on Sunday, March 16.

NOTES: Girardi said there is no real concern with Brendan Ryan, who the manager said had a little ache in his side. An MRI was negative. ... Asked to highlight a couple of pitchers who have caught his eye, Girardi mentioned Dellin Betances and lefty Fred Lewis. Betances would be a one- or two-inning guy, if he were to make the team. The 6-foot-8 Betances, who turns 26 in two weeks, has options. By the way, he is as nice a guy as he is big.

LINEUP: The game, against the Astros, is on MLB Network. Here is the lineup:

Brett Gardner, CF
Eduardo Nunez, 2B
Teixeira, 1B
Kelly Johnson, DH
Francisco Cervelli, C
Dean Anna, SS
Scott Sizemore, 3B
Zoilo Almonte, LF
Mason Williams, RF

Nova, P

Campos, ManBan impress early

March, 3, 2014
Mar 3
10:54
AM ET
TAMPA, Fla. -- Mark Teixeira and Dean Anna left the Steinbrenner Field batting cage in the early morning hours Monday, chatting about the mystery righty on the mound. Anna, who has hit right-handers very well in his minor league career, muttered about looking foolish.

[+] EnlargeJose Campos
AP Photo/Charlie NeibergallJose Campos
"I was taking some bad swings on him the first time," Anna said. "Most of the time I won't be swinging at stuff three-feet in the dirt before it goes to the plate. I had a couple of those swings. That's when I know he has some good stuff, it is just deceiving."

Who was the mystery man? Jose Campos, the other pitcher in the Michael Pineda-Jesus Montero mega-swap from 2012.

In '12, Campos immediately excited the ardent Yankees farm-watchers at Single-A Charleston, going 3-0 with a 1.23 ERA and then, since he is a Yankee pitching prospect, he ended up needing Tommy John Surgery.

But now the 6-foot-4, 195-pound Campos is back and he impressed Teixeira and Anna. Anna talked about the movement on Campos' curve and change-up.

"Everything was down and moving away from me," Anna said. "But his curveball was very good too. It was difficult four feet in front of the plate to tell if it were going to be a strike or not. That was real surprising."

Teixeira
Banuelos
Meanwhile, Manny Banuelos struck out Teixeira in one at-bat with a nice fastball. (Teixeria objected to the calls made by pitching coach Larry Rothschild in the turn.)

Later, Teixeira lined a clear single off Banuelos. (Since there were no fielders in the simulated game, it is just a simulated guess.) Banuelos showed off his curve and his fastball, which looked like it had some bite even after Tommy John.

"It seems like he can place the ball wherever he wants to," Anna said.

Banuelos is probably headed to Triple-A as a starter, though the Yankees have given him an outside shot of making the big club as a reliever, while Campos is likely to end up in A-ball somewhere.

But when you think about the Yankees farm system, Campos is a guy that could help make three-part series like this one go away.

Teixeira
Teixeira
TEX ON THURSDAY: Against Campos and Banuelos, Teixeira stepped in for some simulated at-bats for the first time this spring in preparation for his first exhibition on Thursday in Clearwater, he said. Teixeira was disappointed he didn't see enough pitches. He saw a total of 25 and felt fine afterward.

ANDY ARRIVES: Andy Pettitte is at the complex as a guest instructor. You remember what happened the last time he did this. I don't think we will see a repeat.

DEREK DAY: The Captain is in the lineup today. David Robertson will also appear in the game.

LINEUPS: Today's game vs. the Nats will be on YES and you can follow me here.

Yankees

Brett Gardner, CF
Derek Jeter, SS
Brian McCann, C
Brian Roberts, 2B
Francisco Cervelli, DH
Kelly Johnson, 3B
Ichiro Suzuki, RF
Zoilo Almonte, LF
Corbin Joseph, 1B

Ivan Nova, P

Nationals (3-0)

Denard Span, CF
Danny Espinosa, 2B
Tyler Moore, LF
Scott Hairston, DH
Jose Lobaton, C
Matt Skole, 1B
Zach Walters, SS
Will Rhymes, 3B
Eury Perez, RF

Ross Detwiler, P

Afternoon notes: Short day for Yankees

February, 22, 2014
Feb 22
2:46
PM ET
Manny Banuelos, Pete O'BrienAP Photo/Charlie NeibergallSaturday marked Manny Banuelos' chance to show his stuff.
TAMPA, Fla. -- The fierce rainstorm that soaked Tampa for about an hour this morning cut the Yankees' workout to an abbreviated batting practice session on the main field, sent most of the veterans to the indoor cages -- which are off-limits to the media -- and cancelled most of the fielding drills.

Still, Manny Banuelos, Matt Thornton, Shawn Kelley, Cesar Cabral and Matt Daley all threw live batting practice to five hitters -- Francisco Cervelli, Scott Sizemore, Russ Canzler, Antoan Richardson and Dean Anna. And while Joe Girardi said he thought they all looked good, there were a lot better swings today than there were against Masahiro Tanaka on Friday.

"Looked pretty good," Girardi said of Banuelos, who threw 25 pitches, five each to the five hitters. "Obviously missing a year you’re going to be a little bit rusty. But it looked like the ball was coming out of his hand great. I like what I see."

A couple of the hitters stung the ball off Banuelos, but only Sizemore had what could be definitely called a hit, a solid line drive into the right-center gap. Banuelos said his elbow felt good after his first live BP of the spring.

Godzilla ball: Sizemore also got a few swings in against Hideki Matsui, his Oakland Athletics teammate for the 2011 season who is in camp as a guest instructor. Sizemore gave Matsui high marks as a batting practice pitcher: "all fastballs, plenty of strikes."

Matsui
Matsui
Sick call: Girardi thought Alfonso Soriano was in the midst of a recovery from the flu when he came in for a brief gym workout on Friday, but Soriano apparently worsened Friday night and was not in camp today. Nor will he be present tomorrow and Girardi said Soriano would be "re-evaluated" on Monday. Soriano, who is expected to log most of the right-handed DH at-bats this year, has yet to take part in a workout.

Walking wounded: Three Yankes were held out of workouts today with injuries that Girardi termed "little nicks" -- OF Tyler Austin (sore right wrist), RHP Jim Miller (strained calf) and LHP Nik Turley (arm tightness). Girardi did not know when any of them would be ready to go again.

Oh, Jesus: Girardi said he was "surprised" to hear reports out of Seattle about former Yankees prospect Jesus Montero coming to camp overweight, and an exasperated Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik saying he has "no expectations" for the player for whom he gave away Michael Pineda.

"You’re always a little bit surprised," Girardi said. "Sometimes you’re not sure why things happen, but I think [manager] Lloyd [McClendon] said it best -- you worry about the guys in your camp. We’ve had some issues here sometimes and you’ve got to take care of it, but you want your players in the best physical condition, because obviously they can do more baseball skills that way.''

Big day Sunday: That's the day Girardi will announce his starting pitchers for the first two games of the spring, on Tuesday vs. Florida St. and Wednesday against the Pirates in Bradenton. Can't wait.

Morning notes: ManBan on the bump

February, 22, 2014
Feb 22
10:38
AM ET
TAMPA, Fla. -- Last week, Manny Banuelos told the assembled media, "This is my year," and privately, some Yankee front office sources have told ESPNNewYork.com they believe the 22-year-old left-hander has an outside shot to go north with the club as the second lefty out of the bullpen depending on what kind of spring he has.

Well, it may or may not turn out to be Manny Banuelos' year, but it certainly is his day today. His day to throw live batting practice to a group that includes Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury, Ichiro Suzuki and Gary Sanchez.

That session is scheduled for 11:45 this morning, and assuming it stops raining -- the rain started to come down hard at around 10 a.m. -- could be the highlight of what looks like a quiet Saturday in Yankees camp, a day that began at 7 a.m. with Photo Day.

Banuelos, of course, is coming back from Tommy John surgery and has not thrown a pitch to a hitter in a game since May 2012. But he and the Yankees say he is fully recovered (TJ rarely derails pitching careers anymore) and both expect that the promise Banuelos showed in spring training two years ago will be fulfilled, perhaps as early as this year.

Now let's hope the rain stops so he can show us something.

Cervelli speaks: I had a long chat with Francisco Cervelli at his locker this morning and got him to address, among other things, the run of bad luck that has kept him off the field for much of the past few seasons, the disheartening fact that with Brian McCann here for the next five years, he now appears doomed to be forever a backup, and of course -- wait fr it -- Biogenesis. I'll have a full story up about the Yankees Biogenesis client who IS in camp this season -- you may recall that the other one is not -- a little bit later on.

Sim city: David Phelps was scheduled to throw a simulated game this morning but it's a good possibility that will be washed out by the morning rainstorm.

No. 20 in the house: Jorge Posada arrived in camp this morning for his stint as a guest instructor. I'm sure at some point we'll buttonhole him to talk about his close buddy Derek Jeter's impending retirement.

Pineda throws, looks pretty good

February, 20, 2014
Feb 20
12:04
PM ET


TAMPA, Fla. -- If Joe Girardi creates any one mantra early in spring training, it'll be: Don't try too hard.

Pineda
Pineda
The manager doesn't want players to try to make the team yet. Right now, he just wants players to get ready. So you can only see so much when you watch a bullpen.

Still, from my view, Michael Pineda looked pretty good on Thursday morning. The ball seemed to leave his hand fee and easy.

What does it mean in the end? Not a heck of a lot. But each and every healthy pitch that comes out of Pineda's hand is one pitch closer to him appearing in an actual game with the Yankees.

MANBAN FEELS GOOD: Manny Banuelos threw his first batting practice on Wednesday and said he felt great. Banuelos -- who has an outside chance of being the second lefty in the pen, but is more likely ticketed for Triple-A as a starter -- threw his fastball, change and curve in his 25 pitches.

Banuelos, who was very excited to go close to full-out, said he felt great.

Banuelos: 'This is my year'

February, 15, 2014
Feb 15
10:52
AM ET
TAMPA, Fla. -- Manny Banuelos thought his major league career might be over before it even started. When Banuelos found out he needed Tommy John surgery on his elbow, he felt like he may never pitch again.

Now, he is back, and believe 2014 could be his time to make the majors.

"This is my year," Banuelos said Saturday morning.

[+] EnlargeManuel Banuelos
AP Photo/Kathy WillensThe Yankees shouldn't rush things with lefty Manny Banuelos.
No matter what Banuelos does this spring, the Yankees should not take him on the Opening Day roster. They have thought about it a little.

"Banuelos has got that big arm," a front office source told ESPNNewYork.com as part of our three-part series. "If it's still there and the lightning still strikes then you're going to see people say, 'F--- it, bring him with us [on Opening Day].'"

The Yankees always have a win now attitude. If Banuelos is a better option than Cesar Cabral as a second lefty out of the pen after Matt Thornton, they may really talk about it. But they should not do it.

Banuelos has not pitched in games in nearly two years. He threw 24 innings in 2012, so he needs to put more mileage on his arm to make sure he is ready. He also needs to fine-tune his repertoire so he can be a more complete product when he gets to the majors. He has never dominated in the upper levels of the minors.

Even if Banuelos dominates at Triple-A, the Yankees should wait until around June and let him come up as a starter if he is ready to do that. Banuelos is a young pitcher the Yankees should nurture a little to see if they can maximize his potential.

The idea of rushing him early as a second lefty would only improve the Yankees slightly and could slow Banuelos' development significantly. He has already lost enough time.

Banuelos sounds like a guy that is determined to make an impact. He is throwing at 93/94 right now, but hopes to let it rip soon to see if he can hit 96/97 again.

He will throw a bullpen on Sunday and then a batting practice on Wednesday. He is ready to make an impact, but the Yankees should make sure he is fully seasoned for the long term.

QUESTION: What would you do with Banuelos?

12 burning Bombers questions

February, 12, 2014
Feb 12
12:00
AM ET
Jacoby Ellsbury, Masahiro Tanaka, and Carlos BeltranAP Photo, Getty ImagesThe Yankees missed the playoffs, then promptly reloaded. So what can fans expect in 2014?
NEW YORK -- Every baseball season begins the same way. Players report for spring training. Reporters start asking questions.

Some of those questions, naturally, cannot be fully answered until the season is over, and sometimes not even by then. But that doesn’t stop us from asking them, or trying to guess at their answers.

In that spirit, as the Yankees' pitchers and catchers prepare to report to training camp on Friday, we begin asking our questions today. And coming off only their second playoff-less season in two decades, this year's Yankees team faces some serious issues.

We’ve come up with a dozen questions the Yankees need to answer if they’re going to have a bounce-back 2014 season.

1. Who's on First? This is an easy one, although since he played in just 15 games last season, you might have forgotten about Mark Teixeira. He is said to be healthy and ready to go following wrist tendon surgery, but what kind of player will he be? Teixeira will turn 34 in April, and by his own admission last season, may well be in the start of a decline. And as a frame of reference, Jose Bautista, who had the same surgery in 2012, had a pretty good 118 games in 2013 -- .259 BA, 28 HRs, 73 RBIs, .856 OPS -- but was nowhere near the force he had been in his MVP-caliber 2011 season.

2. What's on Second? Well, it won't be Robinson Cano, doncha know? Right now, the job belongs to Brian Roberts, the veteran Baltimore Orioles second baseman who was signed to a one-year deal by the Yankees as a free agent this winter. Roberts, a career .278 hitter who has averaged roughly seven HRs a season over 13 years -- his high was 18 in 2005 -- will make no one forget Cano at the plate or in the field, but he is a serviceable player who should fit in well.

3. I Don't Know's on Third? Again, we do know who it won't be: Alex Rodriguez. Right now, barring a last-minute signing or the picking up of a late spring training castoff (a la Lyle Overbay last year), it will either be new signing Kelly Johnson or old pal Eduardo Nunez. With the exception of the circus that seems to follow A-Rod, neither can be seen as an improvement: Johnson's past three seasons pretty much mirror A-Rod's production for power, averaging 17 HRs a season, but his BA over that span is .226 and his OPS barely scrapes .700. Nunie, of course, is Nunie -- always an adventure in the field, rarely an explosion at the plate.

4. A short season for the shortstop? Derek Jeter remains a huge question mark, since beginning with spring training last year he was never able to play two back-to-back games in the field and return healthy. True, he’s had more time to heal this winter and presumably will benefit from a normal offseason workout routine. But he will also turn 40 this June and you have to guess he'll spend a lot of his time as a DH this season.

5. Nervous ninths? You betcha. With Mariano Rivera gone, the ninth inning of a Yankees game will not be the same this year, and probably never again. Even if David Robertson rises to the occasion -- and he certainly has the capability to do so -- there's just no way anyone in the stands, or the Yankees' dugout, for that matter, will ever head into a ninth inning with a one-run lead thinking, “This one’s in the bag." With Mo, that was a nightly occurrence, but with Robertson's penchant for putting runners on base -- and admittedly, usually leaving them there -- there will be a lot of sweaty palms in the ballpark before that last out is made.

6. Crazy eighths? Probably, because the Yankees didn't just lose their closer when Mo retired, they lost their eighth-inning guy as well. And no one in baseball set up his closer better than Robertson, who in moving up leaves a gaping hole behind him. Who in the Yankees' bullpen will step up to fill it? Right now, the guess is Shawn Kelley, who was a revelation last season after recovering from a second Tommy John surgery.

7. From whom will the Yankees get minor contributions? As in, from the minor leagues? Well, in the three-part series Andrew Marchand and I did last week on the Yankees' farm system, maybe no one. GM Brian Cashman is hopeful 22-year-old phenom Manny Banuelos, coming off Tommy John surgery, will show enough in spring training to make the team as perhaps the second lefty out of the bullpen. Cashman also believes 24-year-old right-handed flamethrower Jose Ramirez could make an impact. And there is still hope for Dellin Betances, as there should be for any 25-year-old who can hit 97 on the gun.

But aside from those three pitchers -- and J.R. Murphy, who will be given a shot to win the backup catcher's job behind Brian McCann -- there isn’t much on the farm that is ready to be harvested. Gary Sanchez, Slade Heathcott, Tyler Austin and Mason Williams are all several years away.

8. Will the new offense make up for the loss of Cano and A-Rod? Possibly. The Yankees lost their best bat in Cano, but you have to remember they got virtually nothing out of the catcher's spot last year -- .213-8-43, .587 OPS -- and McCann will make a huge difference there. Also, Carlos Beltran should be a major upgrade over Vernon Wells, Jacoby Ellsbury -- if he can stay healthy -- is a more powerful version of Brett Gardner, and the Yankees will have the benefit of a full season of Alfonso Soriano, who figures to get the bulk of the right-handed DH duty. It might be difficult to replace the home runs lost with the departures of Cano and Curtis Granderson, but didn't we say that before last season, too? The 2013 Yankees matched the 2012 Yankees for home runs -- in April, anyway. Overall, last year's club hit 101 fewer homers than its predecessor.

9. Can CC find his lost V-LO? Who knows? Sabathia will turn 34 this season and barely avoided finishing as a .500 pitcher for the first time in his career. More alarming was his ERA, which skirted 5.00 (4.78) and was the highest of his career. Most alarmingly of all, the big man’s velocity has steadily declined over the years, from a high of 94.1 in his first season as a Yankee, to an average of 91.4 in 2013. Publicly, the Yankees continue to maintain they believe CC will find those lost mphs this season, but plenty of pitchers his age have had to make the adjustment from thrower to pitcher and he may now be one of them. Also, for those of you who believe he was "too thin" last season, he looks to have lost even more weight this winter. If size = velocity, that may turn out to be good news for CC's cardiologist but bad news for the Yankees.

10. Can Hiro go the distance? It's a legitimate question now that Hiroki Kuroda has shown a disturbing tendency to fade down the stretch in both his seasons as a Yankee. In 2012, he went 4-1 in September but posted a 4.71 ERA. That was good compared to last year, when, to borrow Graig Nettles' famous line about Sparky Lyle, he went from Cy Young to Sayonara virtually overnight, going 1-7 with a 5.40 ERA over the final two months. Hiro turned 39 on Monday and if the Yankees hope to go far in October -- or even get there in the first place -- they need him to stay strong to the finish.

11. Will Masahiro Tanaka come as advertised? Depends on what you’re expecting. Cashman might have offered a clue this weekend when he told ESPNNewYork.com's Ian O'Connor that he felt the 25-year-old right-hander could develop into "a really solid, consistent number three starter." Later, Cashman said his words had been “misconstrued" and that he meant Tanaka could be a No. 3 "this year." Whatever. At $155 million, Tanaka has got to be better than that, hasn’t he? And all those teams who lined up to bid on him couldn't be wrong, could they?

All we know is, there's always a lot of adjustments to be made when coming from the Nippon Baseball League to MLB. Some make it seamlessly, like Kuroda and Yu Darvish. Others struggle to keep up, like Daisuke Matsuzaka. And some never make the adjustment (dare we mention Kei Igawa?) Sabathia, Kuroda and Ivan Nova form a nice foundation for a starting rotation, but if Tanaka can’t make the adjustment, all the offense in the world is unlikely to help the Yankees.

12. Is Cashman on the hot seat? Highly doubtful. The GM is in the final year of his contract, but he made some gutsy choices this offseason and if the team rebounds the way it might, he should reap much of the credit. Besides, Hal Steinbrenner is not George M. Steinbrenner; he has shown no inclination for scapegoating or knee-jerk firings and I can't see him kicking Cashman to the curb if the team fails to produce. Now, might Cashman decide to walk on his own?

Well, that’s just one more question that we can ask today, but won't be able to answer for another six months. At least.

Future is now for three potential aces

February, 10, 2014
Feb 10
12:31
PM ET
Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, and Manny BanuelosAP Photo, Getty Images
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?

Tanaka or bust

December, 17, 2013
12/17/13
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Masahiro TanakaAP Photo/Kyodo NewsThe Yankees covet Masahiro Tanaka, but the question remains: Will the Japanese ace be available?
Sources have made it clear the Yankees don't like the American free-agent pitching market. Even though they need another starter, they are not expected to make a late run at Matt Garza, Ervin Santana or any of the other most expensive starters.

As for Japan's Masahiro Tanaka, we have known for some time the Yankees want him badly. From the initial plan this winter, Tanaka joined Robinson Cano, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran atop the Yankees' wish list. The Yankees would love to make it 3-for-4, with Jacoby Ellsbury pinch hitting for Cano.

Tanaka wants to play in the United States in 2014, while his team, the Rakuten Golden Eagles, is undecided about making him available.

The Yankees aren't undecided on him. While the $189 million payroll threshold is out the window unless Alex Rodriguez remains suspended -- and even then, they might not make it -- the Yankees will go all out for Tanaka, feeling he is exactly what they need: a high-end, young starter to bring buzz to the Bronx.

There is a feeling among some that the Yankees are destined for more free Octobers. The signing of players in their late 30s, like Tuesday's deal for Brian Roberts and picking up reliever Matt Thornton, are just Band-Aids.

That might end up being true, but Tanaka might be the guy who changes everything. Despite his undefeated season, however, no one knows if he is the next Yu Darvish or Kei Igawa.

The Yankees have to take that chance and then hope their high-end, high-level pitching fortunes change quickly. Michael Pineda turns 25 next month, while Manny Banuelos is just 22.

Pineda is returning from a serious shoulder injury, while Banuelos has a Tommy John scar on his left elbow. They might end up being nothing, but if they are something -- let's say No. 3 or 4 starters -- and Tanaka becomes an ace, then a year from now the Yankees' rotation could be:

1. Tanaka
2. CC Sabathia
3. Ivan Nova
4. Pineda
5. Banuelos

They would have depth with David Phelps, Adam Warren and Vidal Nuno. Suddenly, the future would look a lot different.

Of course, there are a lot of "candies and nuts" in that scenario, but the Yankees have one big move left in them this offseason -- and it is Tanaka.

Morning Notes: Mo, Manny B. & Cervy

February, 13, 2013
2/13/13
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TAMPA, Fla. -- Let's get to some morning notes on Day 2 of spring training.

1. MO ARRIVES: Mariano Rivera is in camp and scheduled to throw a bullpen. In recent years, Rivera usually showed up a few days late, but he is here on time as he comes back from his knee surgery. He is expected to speak to the media at some point today. We'll see if he is ready to make any big announcements.

2. MANNY B GETTING BETTER: I spoke with Manny Banuelos for about five minutes. His elbow is improving to the point that he will make 50 throws today. It is the second time he has thrown since he had Tommy John surgery. About to turn 22, he expects to be ready by next spring training. It likely means the earliest you will see him at the major league level would be late in 2014, but, more likely, 2015. The expectations are still high for the player Mo once called the best pitching prospect he has ever seen in Yankees camp.

3. CERVY SPEAKS: Francisco Cervelli had a nearly 10-minute press conference in which he denied using PEDs. His answers were a little bit confusing, which will likely raise more questions. Wallace Matthews is writing a news story on what Cervelli said. I feel bad for Cervelli, if he is telling the truth, because from his version his name is being unfairly sullied. At one point, he referenced his numbers as a defense catcher for why he didn't use PEDs. That really isn't a valid point, but it was funny.

4. MEDIA TRAINING: The Yankees are having media training this morning. The Yankees watched a 28-minute video on the "dos and don'ts" of dealing with the media.

QUESTION: Your predictions: Will Mo announce his retirement or address the issue at all today?

Law's Yankees' Top 10 prospects

February, 6, 2013
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It is amazing how quickly these lists can change. A year ago, Manny Banuelos was the talk of the Yankees, with Dellin Betances not far behind. Now, in Keith Law's Top 10 Yankees prospects, Banuelos is down to seventh, while Betances isn't even on the list. Banuelos slid because of Tommy John surgery, while Betances couldn't find the plate in 2012.

Still, there are plenty of youngsters to take their place in what Law ranks the 10th best farm system in baseball. Here are the rankings. In parenthesis is where the Yankees' top players fared in Law's top 100.

1. Gary Sanchez, C (18)
2. Mason Williams, CF (35)
3. Tyler Austin, RF (52)
4. Slade Heathcott, CF (56)
5. Jose Ramirez, RHP
6. Ty Hensley, RHP
7. Manny Banuelos, LHP
8. Jose Campos, RHP
9. Mark Montgomery, RHP
10. Angelo Gumbs, 2B

This is what Law writes:

The Yankees' system is top-heavy, with several elite prospects but not a ton of depth, led by the group of position players who started in low-Class A Charleston last year that could produce as many as three above-average or better regulars plus several other guys who'll have big-league value. The loss of Jose Campos for most of 2012 and for Manny Banuelos until 2014 hurts their pitching depth significantly, although the oft-injured Jose Ramirez was extremely effective when healthy this year.


To read more, click here (Insider).

Bombers Beat: ManBan, Soriano & Marshall

August, 7, 2012
8/07/12
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On Bombers Beat, Andrew Marchand talks about how Manny Banuelos' injury is not the end of the world. Marchand also discusses if Rafael Soriano will opts out and answers who is this Brett Marshall at Double-A.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Jacoby Ellsbury
BA HR RBI R
.285 13 62 63
OTHER LEADERS
HRM. Teixeira 20
RBIJ. Ellsbury 62
RB. Gardner 78
OPSB. Gardner .774
WM. Tanaka 12
ERAH. Kuroda 3.88
SOM. Tanaka 135