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After long road back from surgery, Banuelos hopes for big-league opportunity

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TAMPA, Fla. – Once considered the top prospect in the New York Yankees farm system, Manny Banuelos has had a long road to the major leagues.

The 23-year-old left-hander seemed to be on the cusp of breaking camp with the big league club back in 2012 after displaying an electric repertoire in spring training, but instead wound up being sent back to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to finish developing.

“It was two years ago,” Banuelos told reporters on Saturday morning. “That was a long time. I remember I tried to compete, but I had bad outings because my command wasn’t that good, so they sent me down to Triple-A.”

However, the trip to Triple-A would be short-lived. Just six starts into his 2012 campaign, Banuelos was shut down with an elbow injury. Later that season, it was determined that the prized prospect would need Tommy John surgery.

“I’ve got to be positive every day, because when I got hurt, when I had my surgery, I thought my career was over,” he said. “But if I work hard, I can come back, and I think I did.”

Banuelos has been working hard, despite not pitching in an official Minor League game at all last season. While the Yankees were calling up other prospects who were on the 40-man roster late last season, the left-hander was tossing simulated games at the team’s minor league complex in Tampa. As he enters his age-23 season, Banuelos now feels ready finally to attempt to head north with the Yankees again.

“When I was doing my sim games, I was a little bit scared to throw the ball, especially my breaking balls,” Banuelos said. “After that rest, it feels normal. … After two long years, now I feel ready.”

Banuelos will face hitters in live batting practice on Wednesday, during the first full-squad workout. Though he will not be seen as a legitimate contender for the fifth starter’s role, a strong spring could land Banuelos in contention for a spot in the bullpen, according to ESPN New York.

If he fails to break camp with the team, the soon-to-be 23-year-old will head back to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to perfect his command and prove himself once again.

Dan is Examiner.com’s beat writer for the New York Yankees and the Trenton Thunder. Follow him on Twitter at @danpfeiffer74 for all the latest New York Yankees news.

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