Manuel Banuelos made a big start in a totally meaningless game last night as he faced the Red Sox regular lineup for the first time in his career. In two and two-thirds innings he showed both that he needs a little more work, but that there is great potential in him.
He allowed two hits and walked three, but was able to make pitches to escape a bases loaded jam and he was able to fan two batters including Kevin Youkilis on a 3-2 changeup that you rarely see from a guy who has been 20-years-old for just two days.
Despite his age, a performance like that makes it awfully tempting to use Banuelos this season to fulfill the Yankees pitching needs right now. However it appears the Yankees are set on resisting temptation and will have him start the season in Double-A as he still needs time to develop physically.
That means adding innings to an arm that has only topped out at 109 in a single season (back in 2009). Last year he only threw 64.2 innings and had to go to the Arizona Fall League just to come close to a full season’s workload. Adding innings to his arm is important in his development, but the Yankees will be sure that he won’t add too many innings all at once.
That’s why he’s going to have an innings limit which Brian Cashman announced for the first time yesterday. It’s something that has always been likely and generally assumed, but until now the Yankees never really made an official announcement. Cashman didn’t say exactly what the limit will be, but somewhere around 150 innings seems like a safe guess.
That means that even if they wanted to, Banuelos couldn’t put in a full season as a Yankees starter. It also means that even if he’s really lights out in the minors that he won’t be called up as a starter late in the season. Instead, if he makes it to the Bronx at all this year, it will be as a reliever late in the season so they can limit his innings.
If he can successfully finish this season with about 150 innings, that would set him up to throw a 180-200 as the no. 4 or no. 5 starter in the Yankees rotation in 2012 when he’ll still just be 21.