An appreciation of Tommy Manzella
Tommy Manzella is not in the Astros’ lineup almost every day to hit. That’s supposed to be handled by Hunter Pence, Carlos Lee, Lance Berkman and Pedro Feliz. Manzella is in the lineup to play defense and make the kind of dazzling plays like he did in Thursday’s loss to the Reds.
Manzella started a terrific 6-4-3 double play to end the seventh, going to his right and backhanding a ball off the bat of Ryan Hanigan. He topped himself in the eighth when pitcher Bronson Arroyo hit a grounder over the mound which Manzella fielded in shallow center field and whirled and threw out Arroyo at first base.
You won’t see two better plays this year.
Manzella said he’s getting more used to playing behind the pitchers and knowing what pitches they’re going to throw and where the balls might be hit.
“I’m able to make adjustments and I feel like my range is starting to expand,” he said.
He feels really comfortable playing behind Roy Oswalt, who works at a quick pace.
“That’s ideal,” he said. “The quicker the pace, the better it is for the infielders because we’re all on our toes. Nights like tonight where you know he’s working quick and moving the ball in and out, you almost get in a rhythm with him.”
When it came to turn the double play in the seventh inning, Manzella said he’s been taught a good defensive player makes sure he gets the first out and leaves everything else to the other player. In this case, second baseman Kaz Matsui.
“I’m not trying to be quick and hurry and get two,” he said. “When you see a ball like that, my job is to try to get the ball to Kaz as quickly as I can and he made a great turn and that’s almost like a do-or-die play. It’s a do-or-die with a little bit of caution. I didn’t go crazy. I got to it as quickly as I could and made sure we go the first one, and luckily the feed was good enough to let him turn the double play.”
On the play in which he robbed Arroyo of a hit, Manzella knew Arroyo wouldn’t get down the line as quickly as most of the rest of the lineup, so he changed his approach as the ball skipped over the mound and past second base.
“Maybe with someone quicker running it would have been a bang-bang play, but I had an idea he was running and I was able to take a deeper angle and give myself more time,” he said.
With Michael Bourn in center field and Manzella at shortstop, the Astros have two terrific defensive players.