Buddies Dellin Betances, Manny Banuelos getting closer and closer

Betances initially struggled when he was recalled to

Betances initially struggled when he was recalled to the Yankees in August of last year. Despite the early struggles, Betances was recalled once again in September, displaying his potential by striking out eight batters in just 4.1 innings during the last month of the season. (Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams, Jr.)

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Banuelos and Betances. Betances and Banuelos. Either way, rarely is one mentioned without the other. Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances, pitchers whose ages are in the 20s and whose fastballs are in the 90s, are more than just the top two prospects in the Yankees system. They are an entry.

They are close friends and roommates who were promoted from Double-A Trenton to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last year. As far as the Yankees are concerned, they are anything but B-list guys.

"Both of those kids, if they find their niche, they're going to be unstoppable," said David Wells, a special instructor at Yankees camp. "They're going to be 18- to 22-game winners with the stuff they have."

He has a unique connection with Betances, a 6-8, 260-pound righthander who grew up on the Lower East Side and has the ticket stub from the day he sat in the Yankee Stadium bleachers and watched Wells pitch a perfect game. Said Wells, "I told him, 'Hopefully, one day the tables will be turned and you'll be out there on the mound and I can watch you throw one.' "

Banuelos, ranked No. 1 in the system by MLB.com, has more of a connection with Andy Pettitte. The 5-11, 155-pound lefthander grew up in Mexico admiring Pettitte and was chosen to chart his pitches during the latter's rehab start in Trenton in 2010. Recently, when Pettitte still was Wells' fellow instructor in camp, he watched Banuelos and was amazed at how "the ball explodes out of his hand."

Pettitte's scheduled arrival Tuesday to begin his comeback from a year's retirement does put both young pitchers down a notch on the depth chart. But it also is a reminder of how valuable home-grown arms can be.

Perhaps not since the M & M Boys, apartment mates Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, have the Yankees had such an important alphabetical quinella. The question is how quickly the two will progress, and how fast the Yankees will let them do so.

At the moment, they are on different levels. Betances, who will turn 24 Friday, still is with the major-league club. He secured his first exhibition save and drew praise from Joe Girardi on Saturday. "I would love to help the team as soon as I can, but I also have to be ready to be at my best when I do get up there," said Betances, who pitched two games for the Yankees last September. "I'm sure they know what they're doing, so when they do give me a chance, I just hope to be prepared."

Banuelos, who turned 21 this past Tuesday, had a rough inning in Dunedin on Wednesday and was sent to minor-league camp Friday, at about the same time the Yankees were announcing Pettitte's signing.

"I try to get better from every experience," Banuelos said. "I made some mistakes that will help me for the next time."

Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild said, "You can learn from failure, sometimes more than you can from successes."

There is no telling how much the two still need of either. "No matter how good your stuff is, you've got to feel like you belong here. That takes a while,'' Rothschild said. "You've got to jump the hurdles and there are different things that are thrown at you. How you handle those things determines how quickly you become a major-league pitcher. They get along great, they're both quality people. And this situation creates some friendly competition, which isn't the worst thing in the world.''

Notes & quotes: Robinson Cano took a swing at a pitch by Orioles lefty Troy Patton in the sixth inning and missed it, but the ball did not miss him, catching him on the left hand. X-rays were negative, and Girardi said the hand is not broken, just sore . . . . Ivan Nova allowed five runs and seven hits in four innings in the Yankees' 6-3 loss, including homers to Adam Jones and Matt Wieters in a four-run first . . . David Robertson threw off a mound for the first time since he injured his foot March 7. He said he'll be ready for Opening Day.

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