Manuel Banuelos to start vs. Red Sox

Updated: March 14, 2011, 5:42 PM ET
By Andrew Marchand | ESPNNewYork.com

TAMPA -- The New York Yankees will give top pitching prospect Manny Banuelos his first taste of the rivalry when he starts on Monday against the Red Sox. Yankees manager Joe Girardi has made Banuelos his starter for Monday night after Sergio Mitre came down with a slight muscle pull in his back.

With the game being broadcast on ESPN2 at 7 p.m., Girardi is curious to see how Banuelos reacts.

"Even if he gets too hyped up, that is something that he can learn from," Girardi said. "That's what we are going to concentrate on not letting him do tonight. Don't get too hyped up."

Banuelos, 20, is considered one of, if not, the best pitching prospect in the minors. Mariano Rivera told ESPNNewYork.com last week that he considers Banuelos the best pitching prospect he has ever seen.

Asked if Banuelos was being reconsidered for the starting rotation, general manager Brian Cashman said, "No. He's going to Double A.''

Although the Yankees will likely be in the market for a top starter, Cashman may put Banuelos in the untouchable category. Banuelos, a lefty, turned 20 this past weekend.

"I'm sure there is going to be excitement," Girardi said. "I didn't really want to tell him until today, if that what's we were going to do. Serge really wanted to pitch."

The Yankees like their top prospects to get a feel for the rivalry under less stressful circumstances, if they can. One of the reasons Jesus Montero, their top catching prospect, might be the backup in the Bronx to start the season is so he can experience being a Yankee instead of just being thrust into being a starter one day.

Mitre is in the running for the fourth and fifth starter spot, but he is considered a darkhorse candidate. Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia have the inside track to those jobs but could fumble their advantage if they don't pitch well. Yankee officials love Nova's potential, while Garcia won 12 games last season. Garcia pitched poorly on Sunday, opening the door for Bartolo Colon or, possibly, Mitre.

Colon will start a simulated game on Tuesday. Mitre is expected to pitch again later in the week. If Mitre doesn't win the starting spot, he could be the team's long man.

Mitre showed up on Sunday with tightness in his back. If it were the regular season, Girardi said Mitre would give it a go.

"Now, with the history of the oblique strain, we'll shut you down for a few days and see where you are at," Girardi said.

Banuelos was already scheduled to pitch against the Red Sox in relief. Now, he will get to deal with a little more hype. Girardi is very curious to see how he reacts.

"The Red Sox, there [in Fort Myers], ESPN, it is something," Girardi said.

ESPNNewYork.com's Wallace Matthews contributed to this report.

Andrew Marchand is a senior writer for ESPNNewYork. He also regularly contributes to SportsCenter, Baseball Tonight, ESPNews, ESPN New York 98.7 FM and ESPN Radio. He joined ESPN in 2007 after nine years at the New York Post. Follow Andrew on Twitter »

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