NEW YORK ( Associated Press) — When Manny Banuelos arrived on the mound at Yankee Stadium on Friday night, years after the dream he famously seemed to have survived, catcher Jose Trevino delivered a simple message.
“Hey man, welcome home,” Trevino recalled. “This is where you need to be. That’s where you are now. Enjoy.”
Formerly told of the prospect of the New York Yankees, Banuelos eventually got the chance to pitch at the Pinstrips 14 years after joining the organization and seven years out of his business. After stopping in Mexico and Taiwan, the 31-year-old left-hander entered the Majors for the first time since 2019, throwing two innings to the relief of Gerrit Cole in the Yankees’ 13-0 win over the Detroit Tigers.
“It’s amazing,” Banuelos said. “It’s huge for me. I’ve been waiting for this for a long time.”
New York signed the talented Mexican pitcher in 2008, weeks after his 17th birthday, and the enormous expectations of the Yankee Universe quickly fell on his shoulders. He represented New York in the 2009 All-Star Futures Game and ranked high on the list of promising minor leaguers. In 2011, close Mariano Rivera declared Banuelos the best pitching prospect he had ever seen.
But then Banuelos tore the UCL in his left elbow, leading to Tommy John’s surgery, which cost him nearly two full seasons. He never crossed Triple-A with the Yankees, who traded him to Atlanta in 2015.
He reached Major that year with the Braves but was wounded and ineffective. After three more seasons in Triple-A, he played 16 games for the White Sox in 2019 and faltered again.
Thrown out from the affiliated ball, he spent the previous two summers with the Fubon Guardians of the Chinese Professional Baseball League in Taiwan and played winter ball back home in Mexico. He also represented his country at the Tokyo Olympics last summer.
The goal was always to go back to the majors, and rejoining the Yankees this spring on a minor league deal was an easy option when given the opportunity. Finally healthy, he turned heads in spring training, then dominated with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Injuries opened a spot in the bullpen, and New York promoted Banuelos to the larger club on 26 May.
“I grew up as a Yankee fan,” he said. “When they gave me the chance to be here, it was great for me. I was so sad when I left, and then, you know, I was with the team, with the organization, I got the chance to come back.” Thank you very much for giving.
His arrival has been followed by a major stretch by New York’s rotation, with little left for the bullpen, but Banuelos saw his chance on Friday night. By the fifth inning, the Yankees had a massive lead—and Cole was working on a perfect game. If and when Cole’s bid ended, Banuelos thought the rest of the mop-up work would be his.
Cole dropped two hits in the seventh, and next inning manager Aaron Boone called the Banuelos.
He paused behind the mound to get wet for a moment before leaving for work.
“I’ve been with many different teams,” he said. “I have pitched in different countries. It was a great moment. I wanted to enjoy the moment before I started pitching. And I just said, thank goodness.”
He allowed one hit and hit one, closing a combined three-hitter with Cole, two places ahead of him on MLB.com’s Top 100 Prospects. List in 2012 – Cole was ranked 11th and Banuelos 13th.
“That was the coldest part of the night,” Cole said.
Banuelos’ wife and daughter were in the stands, and he was holding the first ball as a souvenir on Friday. He plans to put it on a shelf between balls autographed by Rivera and Derek Jeter during his first stint with the franchise.
“It’s amazing to pitch in this uniform here at Yankee Stadium,” he said. “I don’t know if anyone had this history, but I don’t think so. Because, you know, I think everybody knows about me, what happened 10-12 years ago. I’ve said it before, It has been a long journey to achieve this goal.”
Achievement is not lost on teammates. Trevino is less than two weeks away from his own pinch-me pinstripe moment, when he hit a walk-off on his late father’s birthday At Yankee Stadium—like his Bronx Bombers—loving dad would talk as they practiced in the backyard.
“Stories like these, they go a long way, not only for boys, but for kids around the world,” Trevino said of Banuelos. “Maybe you’re not where you need to be now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t come back later.”
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