Trying to complete the loss of Zack Britton was always going to be a major challenge for New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman. Britton is considered one of baseball’s best backup arms, but he’s likely to miss virtually the entire 2022 season after succumbing to Tommy John surgery.
Finding cheaper back-up guns with an upside and tapping into youth prospects seems like the strategy, but they might have struck gold with 31-year-old relief pitcher Manny Banuelos.
Banuelos featured with the Chicago White Sox in 2019, making his final majors appearance. In 50.2 innings, Banuelos hosted a 6.93 ERA and 7.82 strikeouts per 9. In fact, Banuelos played with the Yankees between 2008 and 2014, reaching their Triple-A affiliate. Banuelos flashed solid awarded before undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2013, disrupting his progress.
However, the Yankees brought him back and gave him reps this spring training, posting a 0.00 ERA in three appearances, allowing two hits and striking out seven batters. Banuelos averaged a 91.7 mph fastball at his peak and mixed a slider, a curveball and a change. Banuelos had great potential before the injury with a solid range of pitches to use.
The veteran relief arm spent time in the Chinese professional baseball league and the Mexican league before returning to MLB.
Against the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday night, Banuelos went three innings, allowing two hits, striking out three batters and not giving up a single walk on 33 pitches.
Equipped with a left arm, the hope is that he can provide some diversity in the bullpen and help make up for the loss to Britton this year. It’s a daunting task for a player who struggled considerably when called upon, but Brian Cashman managed to clinch gold over players who still had gas in the tank.