MARYVALE, Ariz.—Righthander Santo Manzanillo realized he was lucky to be alive, much less throwing a baseball in major league spring training camp.
One of the top pitching prospects in the organization, Manzanillo was driving from his home in La Romana, Dominican Republic, to the Brewers' new academy in San Pedro de Macoris late last November when a truck cut him off on a rural highway.
Manzanillo swerved his Hummer sharply to avoid a collision, and the vehicle went into a ditch and rolled several times, ejecting him through the sunroof—an outcome that often results in death.
"God was looking out for me," the 23-year-old said. "I could have been killed. I didn't wear my seat belt."
When Manzanillo regained his senses, he knew something was wrong with his shoulder and right side, and his baseball career flashed before his eyes.
"I first thought, 'I'm not going to play any more baseball because I felt like I was going to die,' " he said.
Passersby helped Manzanillo to a medical facility, where the diagnosis provided some relief. Beyond cuts on his face and other scrapes and bruises, he escaped with a sprained right shoulder.
The Brewers figured Manzanillo would miss all or most of camp. Instead, he arrived far ahead of schedule and even appeared in three exhibition games prior to being optioned to Double-A Huntsville.
Manzanillo has hit 100 mph in the past, but in general he sits in the mid- to high 90s with an electric slider. He broke out last season, reaching Double-A in the second half and registering a 62-26 K-BB ratio and 1.14 WHIP across two levels and 62 innings.
"There were times last year where he would strike out the side on 11 pitches and they just had no chance," said pitching coach Fred Dabney, who worked with Manzanillo at high Class A Brevard County last season.
"Obviously, people are really impressed with how far he has come and everything he has gone through, with this car accident," Dabney said. "He had a guardian angel looking out for him."
• The Cubs claimed 28-year-old righthander Frankie de la Cruz on waivers. He logged 13 relief innings for Milwaukee last year, striking out nine and allowing 15 baserunners.
• Right fielder Brock Kjeldgaard went 0-for-15 in big league camp prior to being optioned to Double-A. He smacked 24 homers and slugged .495 in the minors last season.