14 years after signing, Bañuelos makes Yankees debut

June 4th, 2022

NEW YORK -- Manny Bañuelos passed through the gate of Yankee Stadium’s right-field bullpen and allowed himself a moment to collect his thoughts. This was the dream that had pushed him all those years ago, that jog of about 300 feet, an experience that the left-hander traveled the globe to keep alive.

Once a celebrated pitching prospect in the Yankees' organization, part of a hyped “Killer B’s” group that also included Dellin Betances and Andrew Brackman, Bañuelos finally experienced his moment in pinstripes on Friday evening. Bañuelos recorded the final six outs in the Yanks’ 13-0 victory over the Tigers.

“This is amazing. This is huge for me,” Bañuelos said. “I’ve been waiting for this for a long time. I was getting ready since the fifth [inning]. To pitch here in Yankee Stadium with this uniform, this is amazing.”

, who carried a perfect game into the seventh inning, said that he considered Bañuelos’ appearance “the coolest part of the night.”

It had been 983 days since Bañuelos’ most recent appearance in the Majors, when he faced Cleveland as a member of the White Sox, and much longer since the opening chapters of his Yankees saga.

Now 31, Bañuelos originally signed with the Yankees out of the Mexican League in 2008 for $450,000, pitching his way to big league camp in 2011 -- Bañuelos said that he still treasures the baseballs that Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera autographed for him during that time.

“I started here; I was very excited and very happy to sign when I was 16, almost 17,” Bañuelos said. “I grew up as a Yankee fan, and when they gave me the opportunity to be here, it was great for me.”

Then the injuries hit; Bañuelos struggled to stay on the field in 2012, then missed all of 2013 after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

“I recall him being on a lot of the prospect [lists] and obviously, the Yankees get a lot of attention,” Cole said. “I definitely knew who he was.”

The Yanks traded Bañuelos to the Braves in early 2015 for pitchers David Carpenter and Chasen Shreve, a day that Bañuelos recalled as “very sad.” Bañuelos spent the next few years drifting between Atlanta, the Angels, the Dodgers, White Sox and Mariners.

International stops in the Chinese Professional Baseball League, the 2020 Summer Olympics and the Mexican League seemed to have Bañuelos miles from the bright lights of Yankee Stadium, but his original organization was still watching.

Bañuelos inked a Minor League deal in January and pitched to a 2.89 ERA in 9 1/3 spring innings, a performance that assured manager Aaron Boone and the coaching staff that they had found someone who could contribute to the big league squad.

“He’s just such a great dude,” Boone said. “To see him realize this, later than expected, but never giving up -- never losing sight of this being what he wanted to do and where he wanted to do it. To see people persevere through a lot of different things is special to witness.”

Wearing No. 68 as an homage to his friend Betances, Bañuelos said his wife and two of their daughters were in the stands at Yankee Stadium on Friday.

He saved the ball from the first pitch that he threw in a big league game with the Yankees, which Bañuelos said he would place between the Jeter and Rivera autographed balls.

“It’s amazing,” Bañuelos said. “My dream came true.”