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]BERARDINO: Manzanillo beats himself up, then gets tough on hitters

Published July 9, 2004

 

You need not adjust your television set or your binoculars. Josias Manzanillo really is talking to himself out there on the pitcher's mound.

 

What is the high-strung Marlins reliever saying?

 

"That's for me," Manzanillo says with a smile. "It's not nice stuff, what I've been saying to myself."

 

When muttering isn't enough, he will smack himself upside the head with his right palm. He'll be standing on the mound and -- Whap! -- the hand comes out of nowhere.

 

He has done more for the head slap than anyone since Deacon Jones.

 

"It's just my way to get focused, to get ready to do my job," he says.

 

OK. We'll accept that.

 

But what about the other thing he does? You know, the deal where, just before the pitch, he takes the baseball with his right hand and slams it into his groin? Two, three, four, five times.

 

For that, we can thank (or blame) Manny Ramirez.

 

Seven years ago, when Manzanillo was pitching for Seattle, Ramirez ripped a line drive off Manzanillo's groin that would force the surgical removal of his right testicle.

 

But first Manzanillo grabbed the ball and threw Jim Thome out at home. Now that's tough.

 

Manzanillo had never worn a protective cup until after that day. Now he slams the baseball into his metal cup as "a great reminder."

 

"I just want to remember somebody is capable of hitting the ball right back to you and destroying you again," he says.

 

Nobody has been making very solid contact off Manzanillo in the three weeks since he joined the Marlins from Triple-A Albuquerque. At 36 and with his 11th organization, the man has been a revelation.

 

He enters tonight's game against the New York Mets, for whom he pitched parts of four seasons, with a 1.93 ERA. Riding a low-90s fastball and a tight slider, he had allowed just 13 baserunners in 14 innings.

 

Not bad for a guy signed in late March off a tryout with Marlins officials Fred Ferreira and Marc DelPiano.

 

"He's one of my all-time favorites," says Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Jason Kendall, who played with Manzanillo from 2000-2002. "Great teammate. Fun to play with. He's just a character. If you're on the other side watching him, he probably gets you a little bitter. But if you know him, that's just how he is."

 

Can Manzanillo keep this up? Can he become the reliable setup man the club has been seeking since Chad Fox's elbow gave out in April?

 

Who knows? Right now it's just fun watching Manzanillo.

 

The camera loves him. It lingers on him. South Florida Little Leaguers could soon begin smacking themselves out of admiration.

 

Not that Manzanillo wants that to happen.

 

"I hope I don't inspire anybody to do what I do," he says. "I'm telling you. I don't know where these things come from. It's not for a show. They just come out."

 

Every fly ball is a one-man opera with this guy. Every strikeout is a symphony. Every third out is a leap-inducing, fist-pumping explosion of emotion.

 

Followed by a dead sprint back to the dugout. Like a golfer who has just heard the crack of lightning one fairway over.

 

For this, Manzanillo must give a tip of the cap to one of his fellow Dominicans, Pascual Perez. The great Pascual's theory was the faster you get back to the dugout, the longer you can rest.

 

All the Perez brothers were borderline crazy, of course. Told his antics could make him an honorary Perez, Manzanillo smiles.

 

"If you really look around, Latin players, especially pitchers, all have something they do that shows [their intensity]," he says. "I don't know what it is about us. It's just the way we approach it and go about the game."

 

Such Marlins forebears as Ugueth Urbina and Antonio Alfonseca displayed their antics on World Series mounds. Just imagine if Manzanillo gets his own chance at that sort of stage.

 

"I'm telling you, if you keep a close look on every Spanish or Latin pitcher, there's something you're going to see that you won't normally see on an American player or an American pitcher," he says. "It seems like all the American pitchers, they are very calm. That's how they can execute. We are different."

 

Thank heavens for that. How much enjoyment can one derive from watching a U.S.-trained pitcher shuffle off the mound at a pulse-monitoring pace?

 

Maybe, it is suggested to Manzanillo, American pitchers should loosen up. Start pumping their fists a little more, the way Fox and Brad Penny did when things really got crazy last October.

 

Manzanillo just shakes his head in soft dismissal.

 

"That's always been their way," he says of American pitchers. "That's how they are. They play their game. They're the best in the business. It's for us to catch up with them."

 

Even if it takes a little head banging along the way.

 

Mike Berardino can be reached at mberardino@sun-sentinel.com.

 

Copyright ? 2004, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

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Yeah, I'd read about the incident before. What a bad ass though, throwing Thome out at home. I've said it before and I'll say it again, Manzanillo is the man.

448521[/snapback]

 

Actually, no you haven't said it before regarding Manzanillo, at least not in your ten posts on marlinsbaseball.com. :whistle

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Yeah, I'd read about the incident before. What a bad ass though, throwing Thome out at home. I've said it before and I'll say it again, Manzanillo is the man.

448521[/snapback]

 

Actually, no you haven't said it before regarding Manzanillo, at least not in your ten posts on marlinsbaseball.com. :whistle

448532[/snapback]

 

I never say I said it here. I just meant that I've said it before. check out the Marlins section on Gamefaqs.com. That's where I used to post before I came here. This place is a lot more active though. :thumbup

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Yeah, I'd read about the incident before. What a bad ass though, throwing Thome out at home. I've said it before and I'll say it again, Manzanillo is the man.

448521[/snapback]

 

Actually, no you haven't said it before regarding Manzanillo, at least not in your ten posts on marlinsbaseball.com. :whistle

448532[/snapback]

 

I never say I said it here. I just meant that I've said it before. check out the Marlins section on Gamefaqs.com. That's where I used to post before I came here. This place is a lot more active though. :thumbup

448538[/snapback]

 

i gotta know

 

what the f*** were you doing on gamefaqs talking about MLB?

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