Banuelos to make MLB debut in finale vs. Nats
Braves' No. 11 prospect draws challenge of facing Scherzer after road back from Tommy John
ATLANTA -- Manny Banuelos might no longer have the overpowering stuff that drew rave reviews from Mariano Rivera and other Yankees veterans during Spring Training in 2011. But the Braves are still looking forward to making the once-heralded prospect the latest addition to their starting rotation.
The Braves announced after Wednesday's 4-1 win over the Nationals that Banuelos will make his Major League debut against Max Scherzer and the Nationals on Thursday night at Turner Field. The plan is for the 24-year-old left-hander to fill the rotation spot that was vacated when Williams Perez was placed on the disabled list on Saturday with a bruised left foot.
Right-hander Ryan Kelly was optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett to make room for Banuelos.
"We got good reports," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said of Banuelos. "He mixes his pitches well. I'm looking forward to it."
Banuelos -- ranked by MLB.com as the Braves' No. 11 prospect in 2015 -- certainly will not gain an appealing opening draw, while matching up against Scherzer. But this will stand as just the latest of the many challenges the young hurler has overcome since his ascent to the Major League level was interrupted by Tommy John elbow surgery in 2012. He missed all of the 2013 season and totaled just 76 2/3 innings as the Yankees took a very cautious approach to his return last year.
"His makeup is unbelievable, and his mound presence is really good," Braves director of player development Dave Trembley said.
Gambling on the hope that Banuelos still possessed some of the same talent that made him one of MLB.com's top 50 overall prospects just three years ago, the Braves acquired him from the Yankees this past offseason in exchange for right-handed reliever David Carpenter and left-handed reliever Chasen Shreve.
While posting a 2.29 ERA in the 15 starts he has made for Gwinnett this year, Banuelos has proven he can be successful without the overpowering fastball he possessed before his left elbow began bothering him three years ago. He has displayed consistent command with a fastball that has sat between 90-92 mph. More importantly, his recent work with Gwinnett's pitching coach, Marty Reed, has aided the development of his curveball and changeup.
"He's learned to pitch off of his fastball," Trembley said. "He was a power pitcher coming up. He had the surgery, and he had to learn how to pitch again. He's learned to use his secondary pitches."
Because of the light schedule he had last year, Banuelos will be limited to approximately 120-130 innings this year. He has already completed 82 2/3 innings for Gwinnett. So there is a chance he will move to Atlanta's bullpen after the All-Star break, when the Braves put Perez back in the rotation or give Mike Foltynewicz a chance to return to the Major League level.