FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Preparation is the whole point of spring training, especially in a quiet camp like the one the Yankees are holding this year. With almost no jobs up for grabs, everyone is quietly preparing for the season. But Monday night, the team prepared for the future, which rushed in with a breath of fresh air at 95 miles per hour.
Manny Banuelos on Monday night brought tomorrow into a camp that is all about today. One day after he turned 20, he turned an exhibition game against the Red Sox into a coming-out party. And it was no picnic for the Red Sox, who did not score against the lithe, lively lefthanded pitcher in 2 2/3 impressive innings.
Banuelos started the Yankees' 2-1 loss by accident, with the Yankees holding back Sergio Mitre because of a sore oblique muscle. It was, however, no accident that Banuelos is a name on everyone's mind and tongue at Yankees headquarters. He throws hard, soft and smooth, and he is a change of pace for a team known for throwing big money at veterans.
The Yankees acquired Banuelos from his hometown Sultanes de Monterrey in Mexico three years ago as part of a five-player package that cost $450,000. He wasn't even the headliner in the deal. The big fish in that catch was Alfredo Aceves, who started for the Red Sox Monday night after the Yankees let him go because they couldn't get his back healthy.
"He was just a baby," Brian Cashman said of Banuelos, adding that he will start this season with Double-A Trenton. "We loved his delivery and we thought at the very least he could be a guy in the bullpen for us.
"The last year and a half," Cashman said, "he has made himself really interesting."
Monday nightwas special, in front of a packed house at City of Palms Park and an international TV audience. Girardi was reluctant to tell him about the start for fear the kid would become too nervous. Not to worry.
"Nervous is bad," Banuelos said, adding that he felt butterflies only once during this spring training, before his first outing. He was excited Monday, not flustered. "It was a big day. I called some people [in Mexico] before the game and said, 'Pay attention to ESPN2.' "
He wasn't dominant against the Red Sox, but he was good. He allowed two hits and three walks with his 53 pitches (28 strikes). He struck out Carl Crawford with a fastball, Kevin Youkilis with a changeup.
Banuelos was pleased to have passed a test in the second, loading the bases before retiring Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia on grounders to third.
Said Aceves: "He's one of those tough guys, he doesn't want to give up. I really like him. He's a really good pitcher."
Youkilis added, "He's got good stuff. He's got a good fastball. Young kid. He's got to learn how to pitch now."
Banuelos learned more than he had in an eye-opening, televised game against the Red Sox in Tampa March 4.
"I mean, my last time when I faced Boston, I didn't face the same hitters. Today, it was the big-league hitters," he said. "I thought a lot about this game. That was good for me."
It could very well be good for the future, too.