08/03/11 2:44 AM ET
Yanks consider using Banuelos down stretch
Promoted to Triple-A, lefty could relieve in Majors
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
And it was a sign that he could make an impact on the present.
Manny Banuelos, the No. 2 prospect on the Yankees and the No. 16 prospect in baseball, according to MLB.com, made his first start for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees on Tuesday night, giving up two runs on seven hits and three walks while striking out eight in five innings. After posting a 3.59 ERA while striking out 94 batters and walking 52 in 95 1/3 innings at Double-A, the 20-year-old left-hander was promoted to the highest level of the Yankees' farm system.
Manager Joe Girardi can envision Banuelos helping the Yankees down the stretch, too.
"Sure," Girardi said when posed the question prior to facing the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field. "We're looking at everyone and anyone who we feel that can help us down these last 50 or whatever games we have left. He's got a chance to go to Triple-A tonight, and let's see how he does."
The 5-foot-11 Banuelos is said to have three plus pitches -- a fastball, a breaking ball and a changeup -- and has put that on display since being signed as an amateur free agent in 2008.
In Spring Training, Banuelos posted a 2.13 ERA in 12 2/3 Grapefruit League innings and garnered some attention while hurling 2 1/3 scoreless frames in a nationally televised start against the Red Sox.
Then, in July, Banuelos was rumored to be discussed as part of a package for former Rockies ace Ubaldo Jimenez, but Cashman didn't budge.
If Banuelos were to join the Yankees, it would most likely be as a reliever. Girardi said if that were the case, he'd ease the lefty in by having him start innings only, like he did with Hector Noesi earlier this season.
But Girardi was careful not to get ahead of himself.
"Let's see how he does in Triple-A," Girardi said. "You never know what our needs are going to be. That's the thing."
Soriano hopes for clean slate with Yanks
CHICAGO -- Rafael Soriano's stint with the Yankees began with general manager Brian Cashman admitting he was against spending $35 million on a setup man. The right-hander proceeded to falter with a 5.40 ERA in his first month and a half and was hindered by right elbow inflammation that put him on the disabled list for about 10 weeks.
Now, Soriano's Yankees tenure involves a lot of sitting -- and waiting.
With the eighth-inning role no longer his, Soriano has pitched in only one game since being activated on Friday. To put it another way, the man brought in to be the Yankees' biggest bullpen piece besides Mariano Rivera entered August with only 17 appearances and doesn't really have a role out of manager Joe Girardi's bullpen.
Speaking before Tuesday night's game against the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field, Soriano said he's learned to be OK with how this season has gone. He now has more patience, is taking things in stride and isn't bothered by the fact that he isn't currently pitching in the role for which he was signed.
In fact, Soriano never expected Girardi to remove Dave Robertson as his setup man.
"I never thought they were going to give me the eighth inning, because this kid has been pitching so well and it'd be a shame for the manager to take a kid out who has been pitching so well all year and just put me in there," Soriano said in Spanish. "I don't feel like I've lost my spot. I just feel like I was out of action for two months, and somebody had to take that spot. To me, whatever inning I can pitch in to help this team, that's where I'll be. I'm not going to feel bad, and I don't feel bad, because he's doing his job."
It'd be hard to adjust the role of Robertson, who entered Tuesday with a stellar 1.49 ERA. But the Yankees have also made a long-term commitment to Soriano and have to eventually see if he's fit to carry on that role as a member of the Yankees.
Soriano may have pitched only one inning since being activated -- he threw a scoreless frame in a blowout win over the Orioles on Saturday -- and he gave up four runs in 4 1/3 Minor League rehab innings before that, but the right-hander says his arm feels better than he expected.
"A lot better, thankfully," Soriano said. "I didn't think it was going to feel this way this fast, but thank God I was able to recover a lot quicker from where I was. Now, I'm feeling a lot better."
Girardi said pregame that he'd ideally like to get Soriano in on Tuesday night. For now, he'll continue to put the 31-year-old right-hander in less stressful situations to get him back in shape.
And Soriano will have to prove himself to gain his trust in big spots again.
A sign of lacking trust from the higher-ups may have been on display before the non-waiver Trade Deadline, as the Yankees were reportedly looking into acquiring the Padres' Heath Bell to their bullpen before balking at the cost.
As for Soriano, he has the option of opting out of his three-year contract and taking a $1.5 million buyout after this season and next season, if he so chooses. Contrary to popular perception, Soriano says he feels comfortable as a member of the Yankees and would lean toward staying.
"At the moment, yes, that's what I have planned, that I'm going to stay this year coming up and the other one," Soriano said. "That all depends on if they don't want to, or if they want to trade me, or anything like that. That would be their choice."
And until that happens, all Soriano can do is wait.
He has plenty of practice.
"I'm just waiting," Soriano said. "I'm waiting for when they give me the opportunity, to know that everything is fine. I know it'll be there."
Back in lineup, Jeter passes Palmeiro
CHICAGO -- Yankees captain Derek Jeter returned to the starting lineup, as expected, on Tuesday against the White Sox and added a milestone hit to his collection with a first-inning single off John Danks that moved the shortstop past Rafael Palmeiro for sole possession of 24th place on the all-time list with No. 3,021.
Jeter had missed Monday's 3-2 win after sustaining a bruised right middle finger upon being hit by a pitch on Sunday. Jeter, who exited Sunday's game in the fourth inning, felt good enough to play on Monday, but manager Joe Girardi opted to give his veteran shortstop a day to heal.
Jeter finished Tuesday's 6-0 rain-shortened win 2-for-4, putting his batting average at .270.
The Yankees, The New York Post reported late Monday night, have placed starter A.J. Burnett, reliever Rafael Soriano and designated hitter Jorge Posada on trade waivers, something many teams will do as a practice of due diligence this month. General manager Brian Cashman told ESPNNY.com: "At some point, every single one of my guys will be on the waiver wire. It's meaningless."
Brett Gardner was in the starting lineup -- batting ninth -- with a lefty starter on the mound once again for Tuesday's rain-shortened 6-0 win over the White Sox. Previously, Yankees manager Joe Girardi would use a lefty starter to give Andruw Jones playing time, but Jones started as the designated hitter with Gardner holding a .324 second-half batting average heading into the game. Asked if he can foresee Gardner leading off against righties and lefties, Girardi said: "I think that's possible -- I do, because of his ability to hit left-handers and his ability to work the count, take his walks."
Russell Martin's homer on Tuesday was his 11th on the year and first on the road since April 23.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.