There are going to be nights when Matt Manning shows why the Detroit Tigers believe he’ll be a fixture in the rotation.
There will also be nights when Manning reminds everyone that he would still be pitching in Toledo if the staff hadn’t been riddled by injuries.
Manning got roughed up by Cleveland for the second time this season in a 6-1 loss on Friday. He gave up four runs in the third and two more in the fourth, his second worst performance in nine starts since he was called up in mid-June.
The 23-year-old right-hander gave up a season-high 10 hits. Cleveland batters pounded out nine runs on nine hits against him in 3⅔ innings on June 28.
“Two times now they kind of had my number,” Manning said. “Got to take it for what it is.”
Fans eager to see the Tigers’ young arms turn in steady performances have to take Manning for what he is right now — a major work in progress. He had an 8.07 ERA in seven starts with the Mud Hens prior to making his major league debut.
He didn’t have a minor league season to work on his repertoire last year and he hasn’t regained the velocity he showed in the lower minors. Manning had been throwing in the 97 mph range a couple years ago. He’s topping out around 93 mph while facing major league opponents.
Manager AJ Hinch doesn’t see the reduced velocity as the main issue for Manning.
“It’s not that tough when you execute,” he said. “I know you (media members) ask about velocity a lot and I just don’t spend a lot of time on it. I’ve got to watch what they’re doing here. I wasn’t in A ball, I wasn’t in Double-A. If this is what we have, then he’s going to have to execute regardless. As we’ve seen, guys that are throwing 96 or 97 are getting hit around here if you don’t execute.”
Manning threw 70% four-seam fastballs in his debut against the Los Angeles Angels on June 17. He’s worked hard at mixing in four other pitches in subsequent starts but without good location, it doesn’t matter what pitch he throws.
His slider was particularly ineffective on Friday. In the third inning, Ernie Clement ripped one for a double and Myles Straw lined another over shortstop Harold Castro’s glove for a single.
Later in the inning, Jose Ramirez jumped on a first-pitch sinker for a double and Bobby Bradley pulled a slider down the right-field line for a two-run double.
In the fourth, Hedges and Clement ripped back-to-back singles off that pitch. Cleveland went on two score two runs and pushed its lead to 6-0.
“After the second inning, I felt really good,” said Manning, who recorded two strikeouts in that inning. “It just kind of spiraled in the third.”
Manning’s getting some hard lessons and those teachable moments will continue.
“He’s going to get the ball again in Baltimore (next week),” Hinch said. “We love Matt. We think he’s a big-league pitcher. We think he’s going to have a high impact here. He’s going to have to learn some things at this level but I don’t want him to ride this roller coaster.”
Manning will carry a 2-5 record and 6.33 ERA into that outing against the Orioles, looking to put a halt to the nosedive.
“Just fuel for my next start,” he said. “It stinks kind of getting kicked in the gut but it makes you hungry for the next one. I’m very eager to get out of my next start.”