Manny Banuelos has endured a lot in the past year. Tuesday's outing may have gone a long way to setting him back on the road to the Majors.
The Yankees' No. 11 prospect tossed five two-hit innings as Double-A Trenton fell to New Hampshire, 3-0.
Banuelos, who did not figure into the decision, recorded five strikeouts and did not issue a walk for the Thunder. The 23-year-old left-hander threw 38 of his 55 pitches for strikes and induced seven ground-ball outs.
"Fastball had some life, got a lot of late swings, and he was able to locate it in and out of the zone," Trenton pitching coach Tommy Phelps said. "After working out of that first inning, he made some pitches when he needed to, he did a nice job. He had a curveball and a cutter and a really good changeup."
The Mexican native had Tommy John surgery in October 2012, missing the entire 2013 season. Prior to the surgery, he last pitched on May 18, 2012 for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The last time Banuelos went five innings in a start was May 13 that year, when he allowed an unearned run over six innings for the then-Yankees.
"I think it's huge," Phelps said of the five-inning outing. "He's been on a progression throughout the season. It's nice for him. I think it's a milestone. He's starting to realize that, 'Hey I'm starting to get closer to back where I used to be.'"
Once considered one of MLB.com's Top 50 prospects, Banuelos has struggled in his return to the mound, going 0-3 with a 5.20 ERA in 14 Eastern League games for the Thunder. Phelps thinks the most important thing for Banuelos was the boost to his morale.
"I think it's just confidence for him," the former Major Leaguer said. "He was able to repeat his delivery and execute a lot with his fastball and had a good feel for his changeup. It's just about him getting through the five innings, and feeling strong and feeling like he could even go out there again."
Going forward, the plan for Banuelos all depends on him.
"We'll keep going from outing to outing," Phelps said. "We'll have him go a few more outings where he goes five innings and see how he responds and go from there. Hopefully he'll keep progressing and have a few more outings like this and go from there."
James Pazos followed Banuelos and fell to 0-1 after giving up a run on three hits over two innings for Trenton.
Kevin Nolan broke a scoreless tie with a two-out single in the sixth inning and Sean Ochinko doubled home two runs with a double in the eighth.
Scott Copeland (6-7) earned the win, giving up three hits over eight innings, while Gregory Infante picked up his 14th save, allowing a hit in a scoreless ninth.