LAKELAND, Fla. — It was only St. Patrick’s Day, two weeks before Opening Day, but Matt Manning needed a good start.
He got one Friday, throwing 3 2/3 scoreless innings in an 8-7 win over the Yankees that left everyone feeling a little better.
“He was throwing with conviction, and all his stuff was working pretty good,” said catcher Jake Rogers. “His slider was working, and he threw a lot of good breaking balls and changeups.”
“Good outings are always [nice] to build confidence from, but I was still confident from the last one, building on the work I do every day,” Manning added.
In his two preceding starts, Manning gave up four runs in 1 1/3 innings against the Red Sox, and five runs on six hits in three innings against the Braves. Manager A.J. Hinch wanted to see more of what he saw Friday.
“You only have so many reps,” Hinch said before Manning’s fourth spring start. “The number of pitches he has this time and next time are the only game reps that he has left [before the regular season]. So I think it’s important for him to utilize those and continue to show progress.”
The 25-year-old right-hander threw 59 pitches, giving up four hits and one walk while striking out four. He threw some 94 mph fastballs and a lot of breaking balls. Working out of a bases-loaded, no-out situation in the second inning was the highlight.
“He had the one inning where he had a lot of stress and some baserunners, but it ended up great for him because he had to pitch through a few things,” Hinch said.
After a mound visit from Rogers, Manning got out of the jam with a strikeout, popup and fly ball.
“Those are the situations that you want to be in in spring,” Manning said. “Get those out of the way, get out of it and keep your team in the ballgame.”
The Tigers have been looking for their young starters to take command before the season.
Manning and Spencer Turnbull, who did not pitch last season after having Tommy John surgery in 2021, are the only remnants of the homegrown rotation that went into last season with such promise. Casey Mize, who is recovering from back surgery and Tommy John surgery, might miss the entire season. And Tarik Skubal, who had flexor tendon surgery, is expected to be out until at least July.
Mize and Manning were first-round Draft choices in 2018 and 2016, respectively, and Skubal was drafted by Detroit in the ninth round in 2018. Turnbull was the Tigers’ second-round pick in 2014.
Detroit entered last season with a starting rotation of Eduardo Rodriguez, Mize, Skubal, Manning and Tyler Alexander, but it didn’t last long. Only Skubal started more than 17 games in 2022.
Manning made the first two turns in the rotation, then was sidelined until last August with a shoulder injury. He returned for 10 starts before being shut down again with a strained right forearm.
After Friday’s start, he figures he is back on schedule.
“I think my stuff’s always been good,” Manning said. “It’s just been progressively better and better as camp has gone on. It was good to go out there and have some success.”