Way back after the end of last season, I wrote a post hypothesizing and somewhat advocating for the idea of Manny Banuelos being a contender for a Major League rotation spot this year. I knew the team was going to play it extra safe with him and they have, but I also knew that there was going to be a need for starting pitching at some point. My rationale was that if Banuelos was healthy and stretched out, he was just as good a fill-in candidate as anybody else. For the better part of this season, his first back from TJS, ManBan has been neither stretched out, healthy, nor very good. Many of his early-season starts were limited to no more than 3 innings and he missed chunks of time in May and late June with blister problems and shoulder fatigue. He went through a 4-game stretch in which he gave up 12 ER and walked 6 in 8.2 innings pitched after coming back from the shoulder-related time off. Lately, though, things have been different and ManBan may be starting to round into form.
Over his last 5 starts, 4 with Double-A Trenton and 1 with Triple-A SWB last night, Banuelos has the following line: 22.2 IP, 10 H, 5 ER, 5 BB, and 20 K. 3 of the earned runs came in 1 game, as did 3 of the walks. For the rest of the time, ManBan has been sharp, precise with his command, and mostly unhittable. It's the first time we've seen a stretch like this from him since the summer of 2010. That seems like a really long time ago, and in some senses it is. But ManBan is a very young 23 and back to the top level of the farm system. The chance for him to make an impact in the Major League rotation this season or next may not be as minute as it appeared to be a few months ago.