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Manship not distracted by opportunity at hand

In running for fifth rotation spot, Phillies righty staying composed and getting results

Special to

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- When right-hander Jeff Manship found himself without a team in the offseason, he wasn't looking for as many suitors as he could get. Just the first one. So, when the Phillies called, he wasted little time in signing.

"I've always heard great things about this organization, so it was pretty much a no-brainer when they came calling just to go with these guys," Manship said. "Every time I played against them in the Minor Leagues, it's always been a very respected organization, all the coaches through and through. So it was really an easy decision, I thought. Granted, I didn't have any other options, but I wasn't waiting around for something else at least."

And with Cole Hamels sidelined for likely the first month of the season, Manship now finds himself as a possible contender for the fifth spot in the rotation. 
"I hear it," Manship said. "I try not to pay attention to it, just because I want to still focus on my business at hand. But I have people telling me that. I try not to put too much pressure on myself, keep going out there and just doing what I've been doing, really, just keep the ball down and stay within myself and not get too emotional."
That in itself was a good test for Manship on Sunday. In his third spring outing, and his first start, he faced the Twins, the team that took him in the 14th round of the 2006 First-Year Player Draft. Manship was with Minnesota through 2012, including parts of four Major League seasons in which he posted a record of 3-2 with a 6.20 ERA in 41 games and six starts. He spent last season with the Rockies, going 0-5 in 11 appearances with four starts and a 7.04 ERA.
Manship, 29, acknowledged his career so far has been uneven, something he tried to address in his work this offseason.
"I would say rocky more than anything," he said. "Just not consistent. I think that's been my biggest problem. I'll go out and have a good outing, and then next outing's a bad outing, good outing, bad outing. So that's always been something that I've tried to work on, really just staying even-keeled the whole time and not having those peaks and valleys.
"This offseason, I was working on a lot of things: breathing right and really just staying in control. That's usually when I get myself in trouble, when something starts happening and I get too worked up out there. So today was a good test for me, just because coming in here and the emotions that I could have with the old team, I was able to keep those at bay, which I was really happy with."
Manager Ryne Sandberg is familiar with Manship from their time together in the Minor Leagues, including the time both spent in the International League.

"He always had a breaking pitch, and he always mixed his pitches well when I saw him at the lower levels, and he was effective for that reason," Sandberg said. "And he's usually around the plate with all of his pitches. He features four pitches, so his ball's moving all the time. What I just noticed this spring is, probably with also the advice of [pitching coach] Bob McClure, is just living at the knees and with mechanics being down in the zone. So that's effective, getting ground balls and having the defense make some plays behind him."
Manship went three innings against the Twins on Sunday, giving up one run on two hits with a walk and a strikeout as the teams played to a nine-inning, 1-1 tie.
"He made pitches. He got three innings. He's just down, constantly down in the zone. Then he elevates when he wants to as a purpose pitch," Sandberg said. "He just mixes up his stuff. He threw strikes. When he did get behind, he was able to adjust, he knows how to pitch a little bit and take a little off and have a little movement. He seemed to get ground balls even in fastball counts up to this point."
In his three spring outings, Manship has gone a combined seven innings, giving up one run on four hits with a walk and six strikeouts.
"I think I'm keeping the ball down, most importantly," Manship said of his spring performance. "And the sinker's getting guys to hit a bunch of ground balls, which is the kind of pitcher I am. So it's good to see those kinds of results out there.
"Today, the slider was working for me. I threw only one curveball, maybe four or five changeups. I think I threw only one or two that were pretty good. But those pitches before in the first two outings were a lot better for me. Today, I pretty much just relied on the sinker more than anything."
Manship, who called himself a "methodical person" and likes being on a starter's routine, looked at the Phillies' roster before signing. Not, however, to size up his rotation possibilities.
"I kind of had it in the back of my mind," he said. "I knew they had a lot of veteran guys, which is obviously a great place to be just because you can learn a lot from these guys. But in terms of just openings, not really, to be honest. I wasn't ever looking at that. Mostly just looking at the organization as a whole -- just how they treat their players and how those players come up, and just the success that they've had, too."

Maureen Mullen is a contributor to

Philadelphia Phillies, Jeff Manship