One of the new additions to the bullpen this season is Robert Manuel, a 26 year old Texan who made his M.L. debut with the Reds in 2009. Manuel’s off to a great start. “I wanted to get off to a good start at Spring Training, and carry it over to the season. I think I’ve done that, capitalizing on the opportunities I’ve been given by the coaches, to show what I can do.” The numbers so far, back him up. In 6 appearances (7 innings pitched) Manuel (0.00 ERA) has not surrendered a run. He is 1-0 and 1-1 in save opportunities. He has been stingy, scattering five hits with no walks and 6 strikeouts. “It’s very important to get off to a good start (with a new organization), you don’t want to give the impression to them that they made a mistake getting you. Hopefully I can continue this throughout the year.”
Manuel appeared in his first Big League game last July with Cincinnati. The debut coincided with his birthday and that made it even better, although he says he didn’t know it at the time. “It was pretty crazy. I didn’t think about it until I was on the bus after the game. People were telling me it was my birthday. I really didn’t have any clue beacuse the last couple of days had been pretty crazy. It was very special making my debut on my birthday. I couldn’t ask for anything more.” In three games with Cincy, Manuel worked 4.1 innings and didn’t allow a single run, giving up just 5 hits. It was the realization of a dream. “All the hard work and dedication. All the people that helped me behind the scenes that don’t get credit. I get all the credit for what I do on the field, but there are a lot of people who deserve the recognition.” Manuel added he had a slight regret about the debut. “I wish we could have won the game, but I threw a couple of scoreless innings out there.”
In his brief tenure, he was befriended by veteran pitcher Aaron Harang of the Reds. Incredibly to Robert, one day Harang called him and invited him to the mall for a shopping spree, on him. “He’s one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met. He took some of the rookies out and bought us some clothes. He told us that someone had done it for him when he was a rookie. It’s hard when you get your first callup. You don’t know if you’ll be here tomorrow, so you don’t want to spend a lot of money. Financially, he helped us out, getting us the right clothes. We bonded. It seems that nowadays it’s tough for the veterans to relate to the young guys. Age, and the times…it was hard, but you know it was fun. A really good experience.” Manuel added that he hopes to pay it forward. “I’d like, someday to do that for a rookie myself.”
Manuel has a great sense of humor and says that he used his time at Spring Training to bond with his new teammates in Fort Myers. “It was very important. I get to know them, they get to know me a little bit, my personality. It’s good to get to know the guys on your team. Get a feel for where they are, pick their brain a little bit, they pick mine too. Feed off that a little bit and take that into a game.”
In 2008, while with the Mariners organization, Milb.com recognized Manuel as the “best relief pitcher ” in all of minor league baseball. Manuel was proud of the distinction. “It was amazing. I started off strong in the Spring and carried it to the season. I had a lot of people to attribute that to. (Pitching Coach and former major leaguer) Chris Bosio really helped me with the mental side of the game. The physical side has always been there. The mental approach, finding the right routine that worked for me. I never really pay attention to the numbers. I focus on keeping my team in the game with the innings I’m given. The award was really just icing on the cake.”
He has continued that solid approach and has become a “go to” guy for Torey Lovullo.