NEW YORK (AP) — When Manny Bañuelos reached the mound at Yankee Stadium on Friday night, many years after that dream seemed to have famously escaped him, catcher Jose Trevino offered a simple message.
“Hey man, welcome home,” Trevino recalled saying. “This is where you’re supposed to be. This is where you are right now. Enjoy it.”
Formerly a touted New York Yankees prospect, Bañuelos finally got the chance to pitch in pinstripes 14 years after he first joined the organization and seven years after he was traded away. Following stops in Mexico and Taiwan, the 31-year-old left-hander pitched in the majors for the first time since 2019, throwing two innings in relief of Gerrit Cole in the Yankees’ 13-0 win over the Detroit Tigers.
“This is amazing,” Bañuelos said. “This is huge for me. I’ve been waiting for this a long time.”
New York signed the talented Mexican pitcher weeks after his 17th birthday in 2008, and the weighty hopes of Yankee Universe quickly fell on his shoulders. He represented New York at the 2009 All-Star Futures Game and ranked highly on lists of promising minor leaguers. In 2011, closer Mariano Rivera declared Bañuelos the best pitching prospect he’d ever seen.
But then Bañuelos tore the UCL in his left elbow, prompting Tommy John surgery that cost him nearly two full seasons. He never got past Triple-A with the Yankees, who traded him to Atlanta in 2015.
He reached the majors that year with the Braves but was injured and ineffective. After three more seasons at Triple-A, he pitched 16 games for the White Sox in 2019 and floundered again.
Cast out of affiliated ball, he spent the past two summers with Taiwan’s Fubon Guardians of the Chinese Professional Baseball League and played winter ball back home in Mexico. He also represented his home country…