Being in running isn't out of step for Manuel

March 01, 1994|By KEN ROSENTHAL

SARASOTA, FLA — SARASOTA, Fla. -- Catch him now, or see you later. If Barry Manuel isn't lifting weights, he's on the StairMaster. If he isn't on the StairMaster, he's running.

"I used to skip class to go fishing or do something fun," said Ben McDonald, a former teammate of Manuel's at Louisiana State. "Barry is one of the few guys who skipped class to run."

As legend has it, Manuel once ran to an LSU baseball practice at an indoor facility 12 miles from where he lived.

"Why are you late?" a coach asked.

"I got caught in traffic," Manuel said.

"That's no excuse!" the coach yelled.

"But I ran here," Manuel replied.

Ran to practice.

"That story is still being told at LSU," said Orioles left-hander John O'Donoghue, who pitched for the Tigers after Manuel was gone.

Manuel, 28, is the guy who won the two-mile run by such a wide margin on the first day of spring training, manager Johnny Oates asked pitching coach Dick Bosman if all the Orioles' other pitchers were out of shape.

And that was nothing.

Three days before training camp opened, Manuel went out for a five-mile run and did 11 instead. His wife, Cynthia, once tried to keep up with him on in-line skates. She'll never make that mistake again.

"The poor thing, I almost killed her," Manuel said, "I was carrying a water bottle and squirting her in the face. Four miles into it, I turned around. She was sitting on somebody's lawn. Her face was beet red. We took it easy that last mile."

Orioles minor-league pitching coordinator Tom Brown said a fitness test at LSU said that Manuel had the body of a triathlete. Come to think of it, if Manuel doesn't make the Orioles pitching staff, he can always enter the Olympic decathlon.

Dan and Dave can relax.

Manuel throws 90 mph, too.

The 5-foot-11, 185-pound right-hander arrived at camp as a decided long shot, but he and left-hander Brian DuBois suddenly are emerging as dark-horse candidates for bullpen jobs.

The Orioles acquired Manuel last season the same way they acquired Jim Poole in 1991 -- on a waiver claim from the Texas Rangers.

The thinking now is that he can become another Alan Mills, giving Oates a hard thrower for the middle innings.

As such, he's a threat to Mark Williamson and maybe even Todd Frohwirth. Manuel is out of minor-league options, and he didn't clear waivers last August. The Orioles don't want to lose him; that's why they kept him on their 40-man roster.

Of course, Manuel must pitch well to set the scenario in motion. Brown, his pitching coach at LSU in 1985 and '86, said he can be his own worst enemy, becoming too intense, too aggressive. He once asked Brown: "You ever throw so hard, you get a headache?"

Brown recalls the LSU pitchers working out with an 8-pound shot put: "He'd get so hyper, he'd start playing with it. He threw it through a 4-by-8 sheet of half-inch plywood. It was like a bullet hole. Everyone was going, 'That's impossible.' "

"I remember those stories vaguely, but Brownie remembers them all," Manuel said, smiling. "I was always doing something. It wasn't always destructive, but sometimes it was. People think I'm nuts. I justcan't sit still. I always have to do things."

Manuel was LSU's closer. He'd do 50 sit-ups between innings -- a total of 800 entering the ninth. He'd run before he pitched, taking off in the seventh to get loose. And he'd run after he pitched, tearing off his jersey and putting on his jogging shorts to work off a blown save.

The day he jogged 12 miles to practice, LSU completed its workoutwith a three-mile run -- 1 1/2 miles to a stop sign and back. Brown said Manuel pulled out the stop sign and brought it back with him to prove he ran the entire course.

The Rangers coaches told Brown they'd use three or four "rabbits" to chase Manuel on the morning run around their training complex, and Manuel still won every time. McDonald knew the outcome of the Orioles' two-mile run was never in doubt. "I just wanted to finish second," he said.

"I use it as my form of relaxation," Manuel said. "I just start running and play everything through -- pitching, life, the things I hope to accomplish. I visualize myself throwing to certain hitters. Before I know it, the time has passed by."

His goal is to earn enough money to build a Little League complex in his hometown of Mamou, La., population 4,000, "counting every kind of animal you can." Of course, if Barry Manuel makes it big, he might want to consider adding an outdoor track, too.

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