What Detroit Tigers’ Matt Manning is doing to join Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal in MLB

Detroit Free Press

Evan Petzold
| Detroit Free Press

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Detroit Tigers‘ right-hander Matt Manning has been one of the headliners in the organization’s rebuild since he was selected No. 9 overall in the 2016 draft out of high school.

Manning, the Tigers’ No. 5 prospect, according to  MLB Pipeline, is still waiting for his turn to throw in the majors. He watched No. 2 prospect Casey Mize and No. 5 prospect Tarik Skubal debut this past season.

They weren’t close to perfect, but the pitching duo had finally arrived.

Manning, who prides himself on improved maturity, is next.

“I’m excited,” Manning, 22, said Tuesday. “I think it’s going to come a lot sooner than we think. Before we know it, it’ll be here, and we’ll get after it.”

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Manning seemed in July on track to get two or three starts as a September addition to the active roster. He went to July’s summer camp with members of the big-league team, as well as offensive prospects Spencer Torkelson, Riley Greene and Dillon Dingler, before getting sent to the alternate training site in Toledo.

At the alternate training site, Manning got a month of experience against what was essentially Triple-A competition, along with hitters on the fringe of cracking the majors.

“The hardest part was pitching against your own teammates and not having enough players to fill the whole lineup,” Manning said. “You’re facing the same five guys for five innings. Just trying to be different and not fall into a pattern. Good, teachable moments. It was definitely hard, but a good experience at the same time.”

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On Aug. 27, Manning — with fellow pitching prospect Alex Faedo — was shut down for the remainder of the year with a forearm strain. If there would have been a minor-league season, he assumes the recovery time would’ve only forced him to miss “a few weeks” on the mound.

Manning has returned to full health and he is in a routine in Lakeland, Florida, at the team’s instructional league camp. He isn’t on the 49-man roster, meaning he isn’t pitching in games or intrasquad scrimmages, but he is utilizing the facilities and light catch sessions to gear up for spring training.

“I’m 100% right now,” Manning said. “I’m feeling good. I feel healthy and strong. It kind of stunk going down last year. … It was just a mild strain in my forearm. Some inflammation and stuff like that. It wasn’t anything too serious.”

Unless Manning makes the majors out of spring training, he is expected to start in Double-A Erie, where he pitched for the entire 2019 season. Across 24 starts and 133⅔ innings, he logged a 2.56 ERA, 0.980 WHIP, 148 strikeouts and 38 walks.

This summer, even without the minors, he challenged himself to get better.

“I was able to kind of take a step back,” Manning said. “I’ve been working on my mechanics and I’ve been getting to a place where I think it’s going to be more consistent.”

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Manning aims to join Skubal and Mize in the majors next season. Both pitchers were called up in August for their debuts. Skubal had a 5.63 ERA in eight games (seven starts) and 32 innings, while Mize registered a 6.99 ERA in seven starts and 28⅓ innings.

Although their results weren’t eye-popping, Manning knows Skubal and Mizebetter than most; the three of them spent the 2019 season together in Erie. Manning thinks the experiences gained in the strange, shortened season will help them in 2021.

And he hopes to be alongside them in the starting rotation.

“They’re going to come back from this offseason and know exactly what they need to do,” Manning said. “They’re going to come in here (for spring training) even better, probably a lot better, to be honest.

“I’m not sure how it’s going to work next year, but if it’s up to me, I’m going to throw as many innings as I can and do as well as I can. I don’t think there’s any restrictions going into 2021, but we’re just going to have to see how it goes.”

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Evan Petzold is a sports reporting intern at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.

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