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OnBaseMachine
10-29-2008, 02:04 PM
Manuel finds role, bridges the gap
Reds prospect snags MiLBY as top Double-A Relief Pitcher
By Lisa Winston / MLB.com

During his first two full seasons of pro ball, right-hander Robert Manuel was a good soldier who did whatever was needed on the mound.

This year, finally moved into a middle-relief role exclusively, the Cincinnati Reds farmhand was commander-in-chief.

A 25-year-old with pinpoint control, Manuel handled middle-relief work for the Chattanooga Lookouts in exemplary fashion to earn the 2008 MiLBY for Best Double-A Relief Pitcher.

Adding a brief four-game stint at Class A Advanced Sarasota in April and a lone two-inning appearance at Triple-A Louisville, Manuel combined to go 6-3 with a 1.25 ERA in 52 games, striking out 103 while scattering 54 hits and walking 18 in 86 2/3 innings. His .174 opponents' batting average ranked 10th among all Minor League relievers.

Manuel moved up to Chattanooga on April 17 and did not allow an earned run there until mid-May, a span of 12 games and 16 innings in which he walked only three while striking out 20. Overall for the Lookouts, he had a 1.40 ERA and three saves (two of them the three-inning variety) while striking out 92 in 77 innings.

A few more stats of note: At no point during the season did his ERA rise above 1.91. He walked just 15 batters -- six intentionally -- with the Lookouts. He yielded two home runs all season and allowed only 10 inherited runners to score.

Though closers generally get the headlines, Manuel's strength is longer relief. And 23 of his 47 Lookouts' appearances consisted of two or more innings.

A non-drafted free agent out of Sam Houston State who was acquired from the New York Mets in a 2006 deal for veteran Dave Williams, Manuel was one of the most pleasant surprises of the season for the Reds.

"Every level we put him at, he gets people out," said Cincinnati player development director Terry Reynolds. "He's one of those guys we'll just keeping pushing and see what it brings."

Manuel put up impressive numbers in his 2005 pro debut with the Mets, going 8-1 with a 2.06 ERA in 12 games, including five starts, in the Gulf Coast League. From the start, he showed superb command by walking four batters and fanning 49 in 56 2/3 innings.

Traded to the Reds in early 2006, Manuel was assigned to Class A Dayton and split time between the bullpen and the rotation, posting a 4.31 ERA and again walking only four over 48 innings. In relief, his ERA was a 2.45; as a starter, it rose to 5.46.

Moving up to Sarasota in 2007, Manuel began the year in relief with a 1.65 ERA but moved into the rotation when Travis Wood was injured. His ERA rose again, this time to 6.39 in 11 starts, giving him a season line of 6-5 with a 4.03 ERA and 22 walks against 93 strikeouts over 98 1/3 innings.

Coming into 2008, the Reds saw the light.

"They basically talked to me and said, 'Even though you've been a starter, we see you more as a reliever, in middle relief,'" Manuel said. "I embraced that with open arms and took it and ran with it, and it's worked out so far."

At the start of the season, the Chattanooga bullpen appeared to be loaded with closer prospect Josh Roenicke, converted starter Carlos Fisher and southpaw Pedro Viola. But when Manuel was promoted two weeks into the season, he fit quickly into his role.

"It was awesome to be able to help out a 'pen that was already so strong before I got there," he said. "My role was to get the ball to those guys with the lead and keep the game close, so I was just bridging the gap between the starter and the seventh-, eighth- and ninth-inning guys."

Manuel, who converted to pitching from playing shortstop in college, definitely prefers coming out of the bullpen -- and not just because he's had more success there.

"I like going to the ballpark knowing I could make a difference in a ballgame three or four times a week rather than just once," he said. "And I like the pressure of getting into a game in crucial situations."

Manuel mixes a lively fastball that hovers around 90 mph, a slider and a changeup, the latter of which he's been working on most in his Arizona Fall League stint with the Peoria Javelinas. But he knows what he's got to work with and doesn't try to do too much.

"My out pitch is basically a fastball, but I'm more of a control guy," he said. "I don't throw 98 mph. If I try, I lose my control. And I don't have a knockout pitch, so to speak. I pitch effectively and I think that's my biggest attribute."

http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20081028&content_id=3651365&vkey=news_mlb&fext=.jsp&c_id=mlb

camisadelgolf
10-29-2008, 04:46 PM
Manuel doesn't get a lot of press, and I can't understand why. I wonder if he belongs more in the Josh Roenicke/Sean Watson/Zach Stewart group or in the Danny Herrera/Aguido Gonzalez/Ramon Geronimo group.

HokieRed
10-29-2008, 05:29 PM
Where's the Carlos Fisher group?

camisadelgolf
10-29-2008, 05:35 PM
Where's the Carlos Fisher group?

If I had to pick, I'd put him in the Roenicke/Watson/Stewart group.

RED VAN HOT
10-29-2008, 11:23 PM
It is good to see that he throws 90. IIRC, an ealier discussion on RZ had his velocity lower. With three pitches and pinpoint control, 90 is fast enough. Let's add him to the prospect ballot.

dougdirt
10-30-2008, 12:52 AM
Manuel can throw harder than 90. He tops out around 93 MPH, but he does work in the 90 MPH area often.

My question is, what has Sean Watson done to be in the same group as Roenicke, Fisher and Stewart?

OnBaseMachine
10-30-2008, 01:13 AM
My question is, what has Sean Watson done to be in the same group as Roenicke, Fisher and Stewart?

I was wondering the same thing. His stuff may be in the same class but the results aren't. He's still got time to figure things out but for now he shouldn't be mentioned with the likes of Fisher, Roenicke, and Stewart. IMO.

*BaseClogger*
10-30-2008, 01:30 AM
Stewart hasn't proven anything yet--what has he done to join the Roenicke/Fisher group?

dougdirt
10-30-2008, 01:31 AM
Stewart hasn't proven anything yet--what has he done to join the Roenicke/Fisher group?

His stuff is better than theirs and he, unlike Watson, has shown an ability to be successful in full season ball out of the bullpen, even if it was just 33 innings. In those 33 innings he struck out 36 and posted a FIP under 2.60.

*BaseClogger*
10-30-2008, 02:16 AM
His stuff is better than theirs and he, unlike Watson, has shown an ability to be successful in full season ball out of the bullpen, even if it was just 33 innings. In those 33 innings he struck out 36 and posted a FIP under 2.60.

Sure, but Watson was even more impressive in his debut seasons. I'm not saying Watson is a better prospect than Stewart, just that I don't see him as on par with that other group considering he has so little experience...

camisadelgolf
10-30-2008, 10:30 AM
My question is, what has Sean Watson done to be in the same group as Roenicke, Fisher and Stewart?

Based on stuff alone, I think Watson belongs int he discussion. I'm sure you've heard all about Watson's knuckle curve. On top of that, he has some pretty good velocity.

Then there's the issue of age. Watson will be 23 years old in AA. At that age, Carlos Fisher was in Dayton, Josh Roenicke was in rookie ball, and Zach Stewart will probably be in Sarasota or Carolina.

For his career, Watson averages a very respectable 3.51 BB/9IP (and 2.40 BB/9IP before switching to the bullpen). Carlos Fisher has him beat here (2.81 BB/9IP), but Josh Roenicke (4.24 BB/9IP) and Zach Stewart (3.82 BB/9IP) are a bit behind--albeit in Stewart's case, a small sample size applies--but that can both work for and against him.

Watson averages 10.01 K/9IP. That puts him ahead of Stewart (9.82 K/9IP) and Fisher (7.80 K/9IP), but to be fair, Fisher's rate improved to 8.87 K/9IP in the bullpen this year. Still, he has them both beat. Sure, Roenicke is at 10.94 K/9IP, but that's one of the best rates in the minor leagues, and not many people can match that at any level.

All in all, Watson might not be the best of the group, but I think he at least belongs in the discussion. I believe his diminished command came from getting adjusted to the bullpen. I think the Reds told him he could really let go of his fastball, and it's just taking him some time to get used to it.

princeton
10-30-2008, 10:40 AM
Manuel doesn't get a lot of press, and I can't understand why.

the press knows the odds against righty relievers that don't throw hard

JayBruceFan
10-30-2008, 11:22 AM
Glad to see this guy doing well

He was nothing special when he was in Dayton

schmidty622
10-30-2008, 11:49 AM
The more the merrier