It has been a long trip for Salomon Manriquez. But after bouncing through four minor leagues last season, the Potomac Nationals catcher is happy with his latest stop -- the 2005 Carolina League vs. California League All-Star Game.
Receiving consistent playing time for the Washington Nationals' high Class A affiliate in Woodbridge, Manriquez has a .311 batting average -- ninth overall in the Carolina League and first among catchers. He has also added 73 hits, 39 RBI and is third on the team with eight home runs. Coaches and the media members noticed and voted Manriquez to the Carolina League all-star roster for the first time in his career.
"He really earned his way into our lineup," Potomac Nationals Manager Bobby Henley said of the 22-year-old Venezuelan. "He's been a journeyman for the organization, kept his mouth shut and went where they told him to go. He's played as hard as he could with limited time and at-bats and this year he's had an opportunity to play and has made the most of it."
"I'm pretty excited," Manriquez said last weekend of the all-star game, which took place last night at Harry Grove Stadium in Frederick. "Last year" -- when he traveled between Montreal Expos affiliates in the South Atlantic League, the Florida State League, the Eastern League and the New York-Penn League -- "was tough for me."
Manriquez turned his excitement into productivity in his first at-bat last night, when he hit a broken-bat double down the left field line. He grounded out to second in his other at-bat.
Frederick Keys outfielder Nick Markakis showed his comfort at the plate in his home park. Markakis won the home run derby before the game and put on another exhibition during the game, hitting a two-run homer to right field and a solo shot to center. He finished 3 for 5 and claimed team MVP honors in the Carolina League's 8-0 victory.
In the days leading up to the game, Manriquez played as if on a mission to prove that he deserved to be on the all-star team. On Friday, in the opener of a three-game series against the Keys, "Manny" went 5 for 5 with a double, a home run and four RBI.
"He's killing us," Keys Manager Bien Figueroa said with a smile during the weekend stand. "He always hits well against us. He finds a way to get a hit off us."
Said Henley of Manriquez's recent hot streak: "Sometimes hitters get hot and it seems like when they hit balls hard they get hits and even if they don't hit balls hard they get hits."
That seemed to be the case Saturday, when Manriquez hit a pop fly to shallow left-center field. Though the Keys' left fielder, center fielder and second baseman converged on the ball, none could come up with the catch. Manriquez went 8 for 13 in the series.
Teammates have taken note of Manriquez's play behind the plate as well.
"He's been outstanding for us all year behind the dish," Potomac first baseman and fellow all-star Josh Whitesell said. "He calls a great game and the pitchers like to throw to him. In a lot of organizations the main aspect for a catcher is how they receive and how they call the game for the pitchers, but he also adds the offensive aspect of the game where he can really swing the bat extremely well."