Detroit Tigers’ Matt Manning ‘might get chance’ for MLB debut; Joey Wentz injury update

Detroit Free Press

Evan Petzold | Detroit Free Press

LAKELAND, Fla. — Matt Manning is ready for his MLB debut. Detroit Tigers general manager Al Avila isn’t making guarantees, but he is optimistic the prized right-handed prospect will arrive in 2021.

Assuming the 23-year-old doesn’t break spring training on the Opening Day roster, expect him in Triple-A Toledo to begin the season.

“I got to believe at some point during the season, and I’m not going to predict when,” Avila said Tuesday, “but Matt Manning might get his chance this year at the major-league level. That’s going to be an exciting thing to watch.”

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Manning was invited to the Tigers’ summer camp last July and spent the regular season at the alternate training site in Toledo before getting shut down in late August with a forearm strain.

He has been healthy since October and will report to spring training Wednesday with the team’s pitchers and catchers. The first full-squad workout with position players is scheduled for Monday in Lakeland.

“I’ve done more this offseason than I ever have before,” Manning said in late January. “I’m ready to go. Every day has been very focused. I have one goal, and it’s to get to the big leagues and (then) pitch well there and win a World Series.”

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Manning last competed  in an organized game for Double-A Erie in 2019. That year, he posted a 2.56 ERA, 0.980 WHIP, 148 strikeouts and 38 walks through 133⅔ innings in 24 starts. His fastball sits in the mid-90s, but he can turn it up a notch and increase his velocity.

The Tigers drafted Manning out of high school with the No. 9 overall pick in 2016. He is the team’s No. 3 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, as well as the 25th-best prospect in all of baseball.

Through four seasons in the minors, Manning has a 3.04 ERA, 1.122 WHIP, 410 strikeouts and 121 walks in 331⅔ innings.

Lefty prospect makes ‘tremendous progress’ in TJ rehab

Left-hander Joey Wentz underwent Tommy John surgery in March 2020 to reconstruct a ligament in his throwing elbow. The 23-year-old is making “tremendous progress,” according to Avila, and is throwing up to 120 feet.

“He’s going to be working out with the club because he’s able to do everything physically,” Avila said. “I’m excited to see him make a full recovery at some point and pitch for us.”

[ One of Detroit Tigers most intriguing prospects tells all about Tommy John surgery recovery ]

The Tigers acquired Wentz from the Atlanta Braves in the 2019 Shane Greene trade. He made five starts for Double-A Erie that year, logging a 2.10 ERA, 0.935 WHIP, 37 strikeouts and four walks in 25⅔ innings.

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It’s unclear when Wentz will be able to pitch in games, and Avila won’t put a timeline on his big-league debut. He has a 3.22 ERA, with 395 strikeouts and 144 walks, in 371⅓ innings during his four-year minor-league career.

“It’s a little bit too early to say,” Avila said. “I’m just excited that he’s making great progress. He has not had any setbacks. He looks good, feels good. The trainers are pretty pumped about his progress. But I really can’t predict, and won’t predict, when he’ll be pitching for us. I’m just excited that he’s making good progress and hoping for the best there.”

[ How Tigers prospects Alex Faedo, Joey Wentz are recovering from Tommy John surgery ]

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

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