Recovered from surgery, Banuelos feels 'normal' again

Recovered from surgery, Banuelos feels 'normal' again

TAMPA, Fla. -- When Manny Banuelos submitted his aching left elbow for examination in October 2012 and learned that he needed Tommy John surgery, the Yankees prospect feared that his career might already be over.

But when Banuelos returned to the mound late last season, hitting 93 and 94 mph with his fastball in simulated games, the left-hander regained his confidence. Banuelos is not only looking ahead to pitching in games, but he expects to reach the Majors this year.

"I have a chance now, and I want to work hard to get to the big leagues," said Banuelos, who turns 23 next month. "If I don't make the team here, [I will] try to get a callup soon."

Banuelos had been listed among the Yankees' brightest pitching prospects, grouped with Dellin Betances and Andrew Brackman to comprise the "Killer B's." Banuelos had been promoted as high as Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in the club's chain before the injury limited him to just 24 innings in 2012.

"I feel normal now," Banuelos said. "After two long years, now I feel ready. I feel good after that. The rehabbing was good."

Banuelos was being developed as a starter before his injury. That is expected to continue, though the Yankees haven't been mentioning Banuelos as a serious contender for their fifth-starter battle because he hasn't faced hitters in more than a year.

He'll get that chance on Wednesday, when Banuelos is scheduled to throw live batting practice at Steinbrenner Field. Banuelos said that he "can't wait" for that, and added that he'd be open to pitching out of the bullpen if it helps him reach the big leagues.

"I don't mind if it's the bullpen or a starter," Banuelos said. "I can make both. I just want to be with the team, that's all."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.