Rookie jitters behind, Manzardo looking like old self

May 21st, 2024

CLEVELAND -- The Guardians’ dugout erupted, as every player smacked on the railing and put their fists in the air to get the rookie to buy into the team’s Super Mario Brothers-like celebration at second base. saw his teammates and excitedly responded with a jubilant fist pump.

Now, he’s officially made.

Manzardo provided a much-needed insurance run on a double to deep center field in the bottom of the fourth inning of the Guardians’ 3-1 victory over the Mets on Monday night at Progressive Field. Cleveland has won 11 of its last 16 games.

“It's by far the best swing he's taken since he's been up here,” Guardians manager Stephen Vogt said. “He was on the heater tonight all night.”

This is what the Guardians have been waiting to see from their No. 2 prospect, per MLB Pipeline. In the first week or two after his debut, Manzardo was simply trying to find his footing in the big leagues. He struggled to make contact at the plate early on and struck out in his first five plate appearances. This is common for a rookie in his early days in the big leagues, and now, he may be starting to settle in.

“I think when you're trying to get started up here, you can start pressing and going down deep, dark rabbit holes and talk yourself into some things that aren't true,” Vogt said. “And I don't know if that's what Kyle is doing, but that's what a lot of young players do when they first get to the big leagues. And for him, it's, ‘Hey, you're here to help us win ballgames. That's why you're here. We believe in that, and we believe in you to do that.’”

In his last two games, Manzardo must have believed that, too. He picked up his first career RBI on Saturday. After sitting out on Sunday, he knocked in another critical run on Monday.

“I would say the last week or so, everything has kind of started to slow down a little bit for me,” Manzardo said. “I feel it's so difficult not to speed up when you come up like I did and the team is having a lot of success, so it's super easy to have unrealistic expectations for yourself. I've kind of taken a step back and just kind of focused on getting back to just trying to be myself.”

Manzardo said he’s been getting back into his usual routines in the batting cages, just like he did at Triple-A. He’s convinced that his work there will translate into game action. And when he’s in the batter’s box, he’s making an effort to take deep breaths and lock into being the hitter everyone in that dugout knows he can be.

When he did that on Monday, he looked like his usual self. The ball exploded off his bat at 106.1 mph against Mets starter Tylor Megill, easily clearing the head of New York center fielder Harrison Bader and one-hopping the fence.

“We’ve seen him hit enough,” Guardians utility man David Fry said. “We know he’s going to get a lot of big hits for us. We kind of expected it, but it’s really cool for him.”

There’s no better feeling for a young player desperately trying to prove he belongs in the big leagues than squaring up a ball like Manzardo did in the fourth inning. It’s the type of hit that can build the confidence that will carry into his next game. But the difference for this game is that he also saw positives in his outs. Instead of swinging and missing or hitting the ball into the ground like he usually had before, he flew out twice -- something he takes as a sign that he’s starting to feel like himself at the plate.

“It’s going to take him a little while to get settled in,” Vogt said, “but to see him drive one and for him to see it hit outfield grass, drive a run in on a barrel, it can really propel him into something special.”

Manzardo hustled into second base and didn’t hesitate to partake in the celebration the Guardians have been doing on the basepaths all season.

“[Austin Hedges] said he’s cool with me doing any [celebration] I want as long as I’m picking up the guys in the dugout,” Manzardo said with a laugh.

His teammates jumped up and down with their arms in the air after watching Manzardo seamlessly fit into the group’s dynamic. Clearly, he passed Hedges’ test.