There was every reason to be fearful for Matt Manning. After not pitching in 2020, his Triple-A numbers to start 2021 were…not great. His peers Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal got off to very bumpy beginnings upon their first MLB call-ups last season, so it seemed like a given that the first few outings were doomed to be bad and that the Tigers would just have to hope that Manning would not lose too much confidence going forward.
While it has only been two games, the results have been very pleasantly surprising for the future stud. At just 23 years old, Manning has a pair of decent outings under his belt already, giving up two runs in each and going at least five innings both times. His strikeout ability has yet to emerge, and his reliance on his fastball needs to be calibrated, but overall this was about the best-case scenario.
Now Manning gets a Cleveland offense that seems not too intimidating. This is another chance for him to show he belongs and to grab hold of a rotation spot for the rest of the year. The Tigers might not be playing for much in the standings from here on out, but having all three young stars pitching well would make this season worth it.
Detroit Tigers (34-44) vs. Cleveland Indians (41-33)
Pitching Matchup: RHP Matt Manning (1-1, 3.38 ERA) vs. RHP Eli Morgan (0-2, 10.32 ERA)
Game 79 Pitching Matchup
Morgan is hoping to become the latest starter that the Cleveland organization develops out of nowhere, though the opening to his major league career has been what many expected from Manning. The 25-year-old has posted an ERA of at least 7.00 in each of his starts this season, though he did look better striking out nine Chicago Cubs over five frames last week.
An eighth-round pick, Morgan projects to be a back-end starter at best. He has good control but lacks the velocity to be a dominant starter — he is averaging 91.3 mph this year. Because of injuries to the rotation, the rookie should get ample opportunity to get some meaningful experience this summer, even as the team fights for the AL Central crown.
Key matchup: Candelario vs. getting back on track
After putting up the second-best offensive performance on the team through May 31, Jeimer Candelario has really slumped in June. He has been hitting just .175 /.288/.211 this month, and while it probably is just a routine rough patch, he continues to bat in the heart of the order and is also still trying to earn his long-term spot on the roster. A quick bounce-back would be a welcome occasion in Detroit.