Traditionally, Major League players on Minor League rehab assignments will splurge for a postgame meal for the clubhouse. With a Sunday afternoon start for Triple-A Toledo, Matt Manning threw his teammates a curve and bought pregame donuts from Krispy Kreme.
“I didn’t eat any of them,” Manning insisted. “I got them for the boys. I thought maybe these guys would want to get out of here quick [after the game], so I got them breakfast.”
Once the game started, Manning had more donuts for the scoreboard and curveballs for opposing hitters. Making his first rehab outing since going on the injured list last month with right shoulder tightness, Manning looked like a Major League hurler overpowering Minor Leaguers in tossing three scoreless innings for the Mud Hens against Worcester. His lone hit allowed was a second-inning single.
“I think I felt a lot better, didn't really have to think about my shoulder or anything,” Manning said. “So for the first time pitching in a few weeks, it felt really good.”
All four of Manning’s strikeouts were swings and misses. In fact, 10 of his 36 pitches drew swings and misses, most of them off fastballs. His fastball topped out at 95 mph on the Fifth Third Field radar gun, while he mixed in some sharp-breaking sliders and a couple of curveballs. One curve fanned the Red Sox’s No. 2 prospect, Triston Casas, to strand a runner on third in the opening inning.
“One of the better ones I’ve thrown,” Manning said. “Curveball’s looking really good. I think I’ve got to start throwing that more.”
Manning is expected to get another rehab outing later this week for the Mud Hens, who head to Louisville to begin a two-week road trip. But Manning’s solid stuff provides some confidence he can rejoin the Tigers' rotation soon and pick up where he left off. Casey Mize, who is also on the injured list with a right shoulder sprain, shouldn’t be far behind. If both can come back by the end of the month, the Tigers could have their trio of young starters back with Tarik Skubal throwing nasty stuff.
The stint also means the Tigers might not have to watch Manning’s innings so much down the stretch.
“I just want to be with [the team] through the wins and the losses and do what I can to turn it around for them,” Manning said. “They’re very, very close. When it starts clicking, it’s going to start coming for them really quickly.”