Ready For Another Longshot?

How good has PawSox reliever Robert Manuel been this season?

 

His ERA is better than Ubaldo Jimenez’s.

 

While the Colorado Rockies ace is 12-1 with a 1.16 ERA, Manuel is 3-1 with a 1.08 ERA and is 7-for-7 in save opportunities.

 


Manuel.jpg 

(photo courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)

 

Manuel rarely tops 88 mph on the radar gun, but he has a 4-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio (28 K, 7 BB) and has not allowed an earned run in his last 12 outings (15.2 IP).

 

“I’m throwing strikes and changing speeds,” Manuel told me.  “Some guys throw 97, but I have good control and I’ve used that to my advantage.  Every time I go out to the mound I force the hitter to swing the bat early, so I get a lot of quick outs and ‘cheap outs’ so to speak.”

 

“He forces you to beat him,” manager Torey Lovullo said.  “He can put that 86 to 88 mph fastball on each edge of the plate and that’s one thing we talk about in baseball – velocity and movement are outstanding, but you have to have command of your pitches.  When you play catch with him, or go behind home plate and watch him, the ball takes off right around the hitting zone and there’s something to be said for that.”

 

“It’s not anything that I try to manipulate – the ball just naturally moves,” Manuel said.  “I don’t throw very hard, but I get that late movement.  I didn’t even know I had it until a couple of years ago when a couple of the guys were telling me that the ball moved the last 3 or 4 feet.  With a wood bat, the sweet spot is only a couple of inches, so it’s hard for hitters to square the ball up.”

 

Robert Manuel’s story is not quite as unlikely as Daniel Nava’s, but like the current darling of Red Sox Nation, the 26-year-old pitcher has been proving doubters wrong throughout his professional career.  Manuel did not pitch in high school, before getting an opportunity to take the mound at San Jacinto North College.  He transferred to Sam Houston State, but wasn’t drafted after leading the Bearkats in saves in 2005.    

 

The Mets eventually signed Robert as a non-drafted free agent, and after being traded to Cincinnati, he made it to the major leagues last year on his 26th birthday.  On July 9th, Manuel debuted by throwing 1.1 scoreless innings against the Phillies.

 

“Those guys were defending champions and they were no slouches by any means – they’re like the Red Sox or the Yankees of the National League,” Manuel told me.  “So going through those guys proved to me that I belonged and that I can stick if given the chance.  That was a major confidence booster even coming into this year, because I know that I can get big league hitters out.”    

 

He doesn’t have a 100 mph sinker like Ubaldo Jimenez, but Manuel has not allowed a run in three major league appearances (4.1 IP).  Still, does Robert ever wonder what it be like to throw 100 mph?

 

“Yea, I wonder what it would be like, but I’m happy with what I’m doing,” Manuel said.  “Not everybody is blessed with an arm like that, but people are blessed in different ways.  I’m happy with what God gave me and with what I’ve been able to do.  I wouldn’t trade location or control for velocity any day of the week.”

 

* * * * *

 

The PawSox conclude a 4-game series against Louisville on Tuesday at 7:05.  I hope you’ll join us for radio coverage beginning with the pre-game show at 6:50 on the PawSox radio network or pawsox.com.

 

I’d love to hear from you.  Please take a moment to tell me who you are and where you’re from in the comments section or you can e-mail me at dhoard@pawsox.com.

 

And if you Twitter, you can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard

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