KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- The nerves evaporated for Manny Banuelos once his first warmup pitch landed in the catcher's glove on Saturday, and the left-handed prospect left the mound thrilled by his first game action since Tommy John surgery.
Coming back from the October 2012 procedure, Banuelos worked two-thirds of the fifth inning of the Yankees' Grapefruit League game against the Astros, a 9-6 win. He allowed two hits, including a three-run homer to Chris Carter, but said that he was pleased by how his arm felt.
"I'm very happy," Banuelos said. "The [outcome] was not like I wanted, but the best thing is I feel healthy. I felt very strong in that inning. I got two outs, but for being the first time after surgery and for two years, that's awesome for me."
Banuelos, who turns 23 later this month, was thought to be on the cusp of making it to the big leagues in 2011, advancing as far as Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He made just six starts in 2012 before requiring surgery. Banuelos is ranked as the Yankees' No. 8 prospect entering this season, according to MLB.com.
"I know that he's been working so hard because we were together at the [Minor League] complex," catcher Francisco Cervelli said. "I know the frustration and everything. He was so good. He had the speed, he just needs confidence and he'll be back."
Banuelos said that he was told his fastball hit 93 mph on Saturday, which was a pleasant surprise to him; Banuelos estimated that it would be 89 or 90 mph at this point. Manager Joe Girardi said that Banuelos' arm strength was fine.
"I heard my velocity was good. I heard that and I'm very happy for that," Banuelos said. "And I feel strong, so I've got to make adjustments for the pitches, but I can feel almost like before."
"This is the best thing. I worked for this, to get back on the mound," Banuelos said. "Now I'm back, so [I'll] just keep working hard and forget the past."