Detroit Tigers’ Matt Manning makes quick work of Toronto Blue Jays in 3-1 loss

Detroit Free Press

LAKELAND, Fla. — The Detroit Tigers lost to the Toronto Blue Jays, 3-1, on Monday at Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium, dropping to a 1-2 record in Grapefruit League play in spring training.

What happened

Tigers right-hander Matt Manning, preparing for his second MLB season, worked quickly in his first spring training start. He threw 27 pitches (21 strikes) and two scoreless innings.

“I just wanted to establish in the (strike) zone,” Manning said, “throw as many strikes, attack these hitters and make them swing the bat.

“If you’re putting these hitters into tough counts, you’re going to make them do some things they don’t normally do. When they have the count on their side, it all switches. If I can keep throwing as many strikes as possible, the odds say I’m going to be good.”

Box score

Manning made his big-league debut in June 2021.

He had a 5.80 ERA with 33 walks and 57 strikeouts across 85⅓ innings in 18 starts in his debut season. As the Tigers aim for the postseason, the organization expects the former No. 9 overall draft pick to take the next step in his development and find consistency.

“The confidence has grown,” Tigers manager AJ Hinch said. “I actually think he’s worrying less about mechanics. Mechanics are pretty good from the get-go. If he doesn’t get too mechanical, he can be really, really good. We’re trying to make him focus less on things and go out there and compete. His stuff plays over the plate.”

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The Tigers scored one run in the first inning, but the Blue Jays countered with two runs in the fifth against left-handed reliever Miguel Del Pozo, who is trying to keep his job on the 40-man roster.

Detroit finished with two hits and three walks.

Starting off

Manning retired all three batters in the first inning: Santiago Espinal on one pitch, Bo Bichette on nine pitches and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. on one pitch. For his nine-pitch battle with Bichette, he used seven fastballs, one slider and one curveball.

Manning recorded back-to-back strikeouts to complete the second inning, putting away Orelvis Martinez (swinging, 83.5 mph slider) and Mallex Smith (swinging, 95.6 mph sinker).

“This game really dictated my pitch selection,” Manning said. “There might be games where I have to spin (the ball) more. I’m pretty comfortable with everything. All of it needs to be brushed up a little bit, but the good thing about having so many pitches is if one’s lacking one day, I can lean on another one. Something’s got to be there.”

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The 24-year-old used 15 four-seam fastballs (56%), four sinkers (15%), four sliders (15%), three curveballs (11%) and one changeup (4%). He earned swings and misses with two four-seamers, two sinkers and one slider.

His fastball averaged 94.9 mph.

“Having a full, good offseason of lifting and throwing without any interruptions with COVID or anything else was big,” Manning said. “I feel back to where I was a couple years ago.”

At the plate

The Blue Jays rolled out right-handed starter Alek Manoah, and the Tigers attacked him for one run in the first inning. Akil Baddoo opened the game with a first-pitch stand-up triple to the right-field corner; Riley Greene followed with a sacrifice fly on a line drive (103.2 mph exit velocity) to center for a 1-0 lead.

The Blue Jays silenced the Tigers after that.

“I’m seeing the ball out of the hand good,” Greene said. “I’m taking pitches that are good pitches (to take). So yeah, I’m feeling good up there.”

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Manoah pitched two innings of one-run ball. Right-hander Nate Pearson dominated in the third and fourth frames. His only blemish was a walk to Ryan Kreidler in the third. He struck out four batters.

Pearson struck out Baddoo, Greene, Miguel Cabrera and Jeimer Candelario.

“We’ve seen the kid at the beginning, but Pearson looks like he’s going to be pretty good,” Hinch said. “When he sits in the upper-90s, it’s pretty tough.”

On the mound

Right-handed reliever Joe Jimenez pitched a scoreless third inning — his second scoreless frame in as many outings this spring. He threw seven of 14 pitches for strikes, with one walk and one strikeout. Righty Bryan Garcia made his second spring appearance, throwing a scoreless fourth inning but allowing two hits. He tossed 15 of 17 pitches for strikes.

“On the mechanics side, he’s one that can really tighten up his mechanics, and his pitches come with it,” Hinch said of Garcia. “Much better with his lead side and his glove to make pitches. Hopefully, it’s a step in the right direction.”

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Del Pozo squandered the Tigers’ 1-0 lead in the fifth inning, as Espinal delivered an RBI single with one out for Toronto’s first run. After Del Pozo loaded the bases, Greg Bird drew a two-out walk for his team’s second run. The Tigers replaced Del Pozo with right-hander Chavez Fernander, a member of minor-league spring training. The 24-year-old, a 35th-round pick in 2018, struck out Martinez on three pitches to escape further damage.

“Not an ideal spot to put a guy in,” Hinch said. “But we needed to limit some pitches for Del Pozo. Always feel proud of him when he comes into a situation he wasn’t expecting.”

The Tigers used right-hander Rony Garcia (sixth inning), righty Miguel Diaz (seventh inning), righty Elvin Rodriguez (eighth inning) and righty Angel De Jesus (ninth inning). Garcia, Diaz and Rodriguez fired scoreless innings, with Diaz logging two strikeouts and averaging 94.3 mph with his sinker.

“His changeup is pretty effective,” Hinch said. “If you look at his whiff rate (23.6% in 2021), people just don’t hit it very often. It’s a good, effective pitch for him, especially against lefties. We’ll get him in (the game) in a couple days again.”

De Jesus was responsible for a walk, hit-by-pitch, balk and one unearned run due to a passed ball by catcher Dustin Garneau. Shortstop Zack Short saved De Jesus’ outing with a leaping catch for the first out of the inning, and the 25-year-old righty retired the next two batters.

Three stars

1. Manning, 2. Baddoo, 3. Fernander.

Next up

Tuesday vs. Philadelphia Phillies in Clearwater.

Contact Evan Petzold at or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzoldRead more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.

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