CLEVELAND — Give left-hander Manny Banuelos credit for having the onions to get back on a pitcher’s mound after the battering he took from the Red Sox last weekend.
Banuelos, 28, who is being counted on to man a spot in the White Sox’ iffy rotation, wasn’t very good in a 5-0 rain-shortened loss Thursday to the Indians. It wasn’t as bad as the horrendous nightmare before a big crowd at Guaranteed Rate Field on Saturday in which he allowed 10 consecutive hits after retiring the first eight batters, but that didn’t take much. Before a sparse gathering at Progressive Field, Banuelos didn’t have tipping pitches to blame for allowing five runs, eight hits and five walks (one intentional) in 4„ innings.
He just wasn’t very good.
“Today was a battle,” he said. “I gave up a base hit in the first inning, and then after that, I got in trouble every single inning. Too many walks. I have to figure it out. I have to work. I’m still walking too many people.’’
The Sox are taking a chance on Banuelos, once a prized prospect of the Yankees, as a reclamation project. It looked like a good gamble when had a 2.70 ERA in his first six outings, including two starts. But not so much since. He will take a 2-2 record and 6.67 ERA into his next start.
“He’s going to get opportunities to pitch, and if the command and strike-to-ball ratio improve — which is necessary for a starting pitcher, and right now he’s 2-to-1, and we like 3-to-1 — [he can succeed],” manager Rick Renteria said. “He has enough stuff, off-speed, nice-enough fastball. If he commands it, he has a chance to still be effective.”
Jordan Luplow got him for his first and second homers of the season, and in between those shots, Banuelos took one in the ribs on a comebacker from Carlos Santana. He scrambled to pick up the ball, then threw it away, allowing Santana to reach second.
The rain began about an hour into the game. With conditions worsening, the tarp came on the field after five innings. After a two-hour, 54-minute delay, it was called an official game by the major-league office.
The delay began shortly after the Indians scored their fifth run with two outs in the fifth when right fielder Charlie Tilson slipped on the wet grass and tumbled backward, allowing Francisco Lindor’s fly ball to fall for an RBI double.
Two batters before Tilson slipped, a ground ball hopped over third baseman Yoan Moncada’s glove for what was first scored an error but later changed to an RBI single. Renteria said the ball also ‘‘ricocheted’’ to Moncada’s left. Whether the wet surface played a role was not known.
In any event, Banuelos threw 91 pitches but only 52 for strikes and walked three consecutive batters with one out in the second. He wriggled out of the jam but said he knows he has to be better.
“The walks are what really hurt us,” catcher James McCann said. “Falling behind hitters and having to I don’t want to say give in, but throw the ball over the plate. They took advantage of it.”
Righty Carlos Carrasco (3-3, 4.91 ERA), who is 6-0 with an ERA of 0.82 in his last eight starts against the Sox, held them to two hits.
Banuelos was nowhere near that level of effectiveness, but the Sox don’t have any other options on the current roster or at Class AAA Charlotte, except for Dylan Cease. So he’ll keep getting the ball.
“Hopefully, they still have confidence in me,” Banuelos said. “I’m going to improve. It was back-to-back outings, bad outings, and I’m going to get better out there.”