“It would’ve been a quicker recovery,” Manning said in a video conference with reporters. “But with just the timing of it and kind of the scenario, it was just best to shut down for the season and get ready for next year.”
That preparation for next season is already underway. Manning talked with reporters from the Tigers’ instructional league camp in Lakeland, Fla., where he isn’t pitching in games but is throwing and working out.
“I’m doing mechanics stuff, playing catch, light catch, now into next year,” Manning said. “I’m just going to keep throwing and get my arm strong and as healthy and as strong as I can get it for next Spring Training.”
Asked if he expects to be at 100 percent for Spring Training, Manning said, “I’m 100 percent right now.”
That should be a relief for many Tigers fans who had hoped to see him in Detroit this summer. The 22-year-old right-hander, currently ranked 20th on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 prospects list and No. 3 in the Tigers’ system, made an impression in Spring Training and Summer Camp but had mixed results. He was assigned to the alternate training site in Toledo, Ohio, where he joined fellow Detroit pitching prospects Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal and Alex Faedo in preparing for a potential callup by pitching in intrasquad games.
“It was tough for everyone because you haven’t done it before,” Manning said. “I think the hardest part was pitching to your own teammates and not having enough players to fill the whole lineup. So you’re facing the same five guys for five innings and they get to see you multiple times week after week, so I was just trying to be different and trying not to fall into a pattern and all that stuff. It was a good, teachable moment, but it was definitely hard. But a good experience at the same time.”
That experience came to an abrupt end around the end of August, when the Tigers announced that Manning and Faedo were both being shut down with right forearm strains. It’s the kind of injury that sometimes precedes something more serious, such as elbow trouble, but Manning downplayed it.
“It was just a mild strain in my forearm,” he said, “like some inflammation in it and stuff like that. It wasn’t anything too serious. Like I said, if it was a normal season, the recovery time would’ve been enough to where I would probably miss a few weeks of starts and then would have been able to get back out there.”
Instead, he rested his arm, then headed down to Florida. Like former Tiger Justin Verlander years ago, Manning has a house in Lakeland where he stays in the offseason so he can use Detroit’s Spring Training facilities for his workouts. In addition to getting his arm in shape, he was able to pick up on the mechanical work he was doing in Toledo to make his delivery more consistent.
“I was able to kind of take a step back,” Manning said. “I’ve been working on my mechanics, and I’ve been getting to a place where I think it’s going to be more consistent and I’ll be able to just take a step back and evaluate it and get ready for next year.”
After watching Mize and Skubal make their Major League debuts this summer, Manning is eager to join them.
“I was happy to see them make it,” he said. “I was happy at everything they learned and how well they did and seeing them grow there. It’s just going to make them better for next year. That kind of pumps me up.”
Tigers make 40-man roster moves
The Tigers dropped four players from their 40-man roster Tuesday as they prepare for the Hot Stove season. Outfielder Jorge Bonifacio and right-handers Dario Agrazal and Dereck Rodríguez cleared waivers and were outrighted to Triple-A Toledo. Lefty reliever Nick Ramirez cleared waivers as well, but he elected free agency after being outrighted.
Detroit could still bring back Ramirez, as it did last winter as a non-roster invite. But after appearing in just five games this season, all near the end, he could opt to test the open market.