Another short outing for Matt Manning as Tigers come up short in finale with Royals

Detroit News

Detroit — Who knows what the Tigers’ rotation might look like in a couple of weeks.

After they lost the rubber match to the Royals 3-2 Sunday, manager AJ Hinch announced that veteran right-hander Michael Pineda, who was signed for one year and made $5.5 million and made just 11 starts, was being designated for assignment.

“Nothing is worse than telling a veteran of his magnitude, with his career, that we’re moving on from him,” Hinch said. “But for us, it’s time for us to take a look at the guys who have a better chance of being here.”

Lefty prospect Joey Wentz could be getting some starts. Elvin Rodriguez might be back. Garrett Hill could make a couple of short-inning starts. Maybe Beau Brieske gets another start or two.

For sure, though, Hinch wants Matt Manning to pitch on regular rest every five days and log as many innings as possible.

BOX SCORE: Royals 3, Tigers 2

“We could use a five-man rotation, a four-man rotation, we’ve even talked about using six,” Hinch said. “All scenarios are in play. But the focus is still on Manning and Eduardo Rodriguez.

“They are the two we really want their innings to stay continuous if we can – barring injury or performance that dictates less or more innings.”

Manning walked that performance-issue line with a messy outing Sunday. He allowed five hits with three walks and a hit batsman. It took him 90 pitches to grind out four innings.

But, after he struck out Salvador Perez with the bases loaded to end the fourth, he’d limited the damage to two runs.

“He’s got to learn how to pitch through that stuff,” Hinch said. “When you make a decision and you’re trying to develop young pitchers, getting through those situations when you’re erratic or you’re spraying the ball — it’s tough living sometimes.

“He’s got to learn how to do it.”

Still, that’s two short outings in a row. He allowed a career-high seven runs in 2.1 innings against Seattle in his previous start.

“I wish I could’ve gotten deeper in the game with the way our bullpen has been getting used,” Manning said. “But these are situations where maybe last year would’ve gotten out of hand. Even last week it got out of hand.

“The more I get in these situations and the more experience I get in these situations — that’s the next step in my development.”

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Manning arguably made his best pitches at the end of the two-run, 33-pitch fourth inning. After he gave up an RBI single to Nicky Lopez and walked MJ Melendez with the bases loaded, he got Bobby Witt, Jr., to fly to shallow right on a first-pitch slider and struck out Perez swinging a 94-mph heater after he’d set him up with a curveball and slider.

“I was happy how I battled and minimized damage,” he said. “But I have to get deeper in the game.”

Harold Castro took Manning off the hook in the bottom of the fourth. After a single by Javier Baez, Castro connected on a 2-0, 92-mph fastball from Royals starter Max Castillo and drove it into the seats in right-center.

It was his career-high sixth homer of the season.

It was also the last time the Tigers scored. It was the last time they had a runner in scoring position.

The game stayed tied until the bottom of the eighth. Hinch decided to bring in closer Gregory Soto, with the hope of possibly getting six outs from him.

“We had to worry about the first three outs first and then decide about the next three,” he said. “Going to the pen as early as we had to, the way it all mapped out, we were just trying to get to the finish line with a lead.”

Soto dodged one bullet on a brilliant relay. He walked No. 9 hitter Lopez with one out and Melendez ripped an opposite field double into the left-field corner.

Victor Reyes came up with it and got it quickly to the cutoff man, Baez. Baez threw a one-hopper to the plate. Catcher Tucker Barnhart scooped it and made a lunging tag on Melendez.

“It was scary with the throw to the plate because I kind of spiked it,” Baez said. “But Barnhart, with how good he is at blocking the ball, he was able to get that out.”

It was for naught, though. Witt, Jr., followed, slapping one past third baseman Jeimer Candelario to score Melendez with the go-ahead run.

“It’s a tough play, but it’s a makeable play,” Hinch said. “Those are hard plays but this is a tough league where guys hit it hard. He’s a good runner. You’ve got one chance to field it and get it to first. He couldn’t come up with it.”

The ball left Witt’s bat with an exit velocity of 101.7 mph and it was hit to Candelario’s left. He seemed to slide to the ball and then fell to a knee. The ball got through him.

“We have to make sure that play is made,” Baez said. “Candy, I think that ball kind of went off the grass. But we have to make sure that play is made.”

After the game, Pineda was saying his farewells to his teammates.

“Yes,” he said when asked if the move surprised him. “I understand the decision but it’s September now. I didn’t think they were going to do that to me. If they wanted to do that, I think they’d want to do it earlier.

“But I respect the decision. I was excited to come to the Tigers and give my experience here. I understood the situation. But, a couple of injuries and I’m not pitching like I used to be pitching. It’s baseball.”

The Tigers have called-up reliever Luis Castillo to take Pineda’s roster spot for now.

Twitter: @cmccosky

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