Anaheim, Calif. — Detroit Tigers right-hander Matt Manning learned at the beginning of this week that he’d make his major-league debut on Thursday night against the Los Angeles Angels.
Reality hit home about 45 minutes before the game, when Angels star Shohei Ohtani joined the 23-year-old right-hander in center field to begin their warmups at Angel Stadium.
Manning, the ninth-overall selection in the 2016 MLB draft, was impressive in his debut, allowing two runs and four hits in five innings. He struck out three and walked two, in what’d end up a 7-5 Angels win and an 0-1 start to his MLB career.
The third-ranked prospect in the organization, according to MLB Pipeline, Manning made seven starts at Triple-A Toledo this season, where opposing batters hit .303 with a .598 slugging percentage and 11 home runs in 32 1/3 innings.
In his last Triple-A start on June 9, the 6-foot-6, 200-pounder from the Sacramento area was much better, allowing two runs over six innings and striking out eight against Louisville.
“I learned how to pitch by the end of it,” Manning said earlier in the week. “I had a lot of good innings in between some not so good ones, but I learned a lot. It was a very good learning experience.”
Manning didn’t have to deal with two of the Angels best hitters on Thursday.
Mike Trout, the three-time AL MVP, has been sidelined over a month with a calf injury, and Anthony Rendon, who led the majors with 126 RBIs in 2019, is out with a triceps injury.
Manning certainly had to battle some nerves, however.
He threw just six strikes in a 14-pitch first inning, which included a one-out walk to Ohtani. He got through the inning scoreless, but was stung by some sloppy defense in the second.
Kean Wong grounded a single up the middle with one out and sprinted to second for a double when center fielder Daz Cameron didn’t charge the ball.
Juan Lagares then hit a hard grounder to third that likely would have been a double play if Wong had stayed at first.
Wong stayed at second and Luis Rengifo followed with a single through the left side. Wong beat the throw home from left fielder Akil Baddoo for a 1-0 lead and the ball got past catcher Eric Haase, allowing Rengifo to sprint all the way to third.
David Fletcher then drove in Rengifo with another ground ball single to make it 2-0.
Manning retired nine of the next 10 hitters before walking Ohtani again with two outs in the fifth and then striking out Taylor Ward. Jonathan Schoop’s sixth-inning solo homer couldn’t save Manning from being in line for the loss upon his departure.
Dan Arritt is a freelance writer.