You can call Theo Epstein a genius. It's alright. I'm sure he likes it. I mean, all the guy does is buy that hidden gem, or that one player passed over one too many times, and then turns him into a stud. He takes chances, and his track record so far is almost spotless. His latest resurrection is relief pitcher Matt Mantei, who just continues to impress outing after outing.
Mantei is 1-0 with a 2.12 earned run average on the season. He has appeared in 21 games so far this season, with opponents batting .230 off of him. To split the .230 batting average up a little more, righties are hitting .143 off him while lefties are having great success with a .346. In April, he had a 4.50 ERA in 8 innings of work, while May has been a completely different story, as he hasn't allowed a run in 9 innings of work and has given up only five hits.
This is his 10th season in the major leagues, and up until now has primarily been a closer for Arizona and Florida. He has 93 career saves, which includes a 32 save season with both Arizona and Florida in 1999, and a 29 save season for the Diamondbacks in 2003. He has also had four seasons of sub-3 earned run averages.
His best pitch is definitely his 95+ mile and hour heat that he delivers on a line to the plate. His best compliment to his heater is his curveball which, on some nights, is just completely unhittable. Here is what ESPN says about him:
He was signed over the off-season to a cheap, incentive laden contract that will put more money in his pocket if he performs well and stays healthy. A lot like the contract David Wells signed. There were a lot of teams skeptical of signing him since he just came off season-ending shoulder surgery after he went on the disabled list last season with Arizona. But Epstein took a chance, because he knew that he would be a low risk with the cheap contract, but could be a very high reward with his history of being a great relief pitcher.
To put it simply, he has been a complete stud on the mound for the Red Sox. He hasn't allowed a run to score since April 18, and has only allowed runs in three of his 21 appearances.
His best performance of the season came on April 2 in a loss versus the Detroit Tigers. He pitched 1.2 innings, allowed no hits, runs or walks, and struck out three while only throwing 21 pitches, 15 of those strikes.
When you think about our best relief pitcher this season, Mike Timlin is probably the first that comes to your mind. But many people aren't seeing what Mantei is doing for the ball club, which is being almost perfect for over a month now.
Timlin and Mantei have their similarities. They are both great at home, with Timlin earning a 1.08 ERA at Fenway and Mantei a 1.35. They both have great success versus right-handed pitchers. And they both have their share of struggles against left-handed hitters (.310 batting average for lefties against Timlin).
They do have their differences though. Mantei has a better batting-average against, while Timlin has the edge in earned run average with a 1.52 on the year. Unlike Mantei, Timlin has been great all year so far, while Mantei has really been on for a little over a month now. Mantei has performed very well with 3-5 days rest, while that is where the regularly used Timlin has had his most struggles (although his numbers still aren't bad).
Mantei has been superb, so keep can eye on him. When he comes in, don't change the channel. Watch the extraordinary heat that he throws to the plate, and that curveball that has a huge 12-6 drop on the ball. If he keeps this up for the rest of the season, than Mantei may be the biggest steal of last year's off-season.