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The paths of Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos have diverged

This composite image shows Yankees reliever Dellin Betances,

This composite image shows Yankees reliever Dellin Betances, left, and then-Yankees prospect Manny Banuelos, who is now with the Atlanta Braves. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams, Jr., AP

TAMPA, Fla. - By this point, Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos were supposed to be heading the Yankees' rotation, a pair of stud prospects ushering in a new era of low-cost, high-impact starting pitching in the Bronx.

Then injuries and ineffectiveness changed that plan.

Now Betances, 26, who was shifted to the bullpen in 2013 because of command issues, is vying to become the Yankees' closer after one of the best seasons a reliever has ever had.

And Banuelos went from prospect to trade chip. The Yankees dealt the 24-year-old lefthander to the Braves for relievers David Carpenter and Chasen Shreve in the offseason, and Banuelos is trying to make the rebuilding Braves as a starter or reliever.

The two pitchers had dinner together recently and reminisced about their early days in the Yankees' system.

They were two-thirds of the so-called "Killer B's'' along with 6-10 righthander Andrew Brackman, who is out of baseball after an injury-wrecked career that featured only three big-league appearances in 2011.

"We spoke about hopefully getting a chance to play together at the big level,'' Betances said. "That didn't come about. Last year was obviously a very big year for me and he was very happy with everything that was going on. It was kind of giving him hope, you know, because he's a guy who has struggled and the last couple of years have been tough for him with injuries and stuff.''

After six appearances in 2012, Banuelos had Tommy John surgery and did not pitch in 2013. Earlier this spring training at Braves camp outside Orlando, he was asked if he feels healthy. He pointed at his left elbow and nodded yes.

"My arm feels strong,'' he said. "I'm throwing the ball well. Compared with last year, all is good. I'm finally healthy now.''

Banuelos, who signed with the Yankees as a 16-year-old, has yet to make his big-league debut. Reminded that he still is young, he laughed and said: "I don't feel like it. This is my eighth year.''

Banuelos went 2-3 with a 4.13 ERA in 26 games at three minor-league levels in 2014. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said last summer that Banuelos was a candidate to get called up -- perhaps to pitch out of the bullpen -- but it didn't happen.

Then Cashman made another call: to Banuelos on New Year's Day to tell him he had been traded.

"My first question was, 'To what team?' '' Banuelos said. "I got excited when he told me it was the Braves. I like the team. I want to help this team.''

Banuelos said he immediately texted Betances, who called him to discuss the news.

"I was upset just because he's a friend,'' Betances said. "Not upset, I would say. I wanted him to succeed here. In that case, I was a little bummed for him. But it's a new opportunity and he has a chance to go out there and show them what he's got.''

Banuelos started for the Braves against the Marlins Thursday and allowed one run in two innings. His ERA is a ghastly 17.18 in three outings, including one against the Mets in which he allowed five runs in two-thirds of an inning.

But the Braves need a fifth starter and Banuelos is still in the mix. Come to think of it, the Yankees need a fifth starter, too, with Chris Capuano injured . . .

Nope. That ship has sailed.

"He gets a chance to start over again and put the past behind him and go out there and pitch,'' Betances said. "I know if he's healthy, he's one of the best.''

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