Whitecaps' Manning fans career-high 10

Tigers No. 2 prospect runs into trouble in fourth inning of '18 debut

Matt Manning went 2-0 with a 5.60 ERA and 26 strikeouts in five starts with West Michigan last season. (Emily Jones/MiLB.com)

By Josh Horton / MiLB.com | April 21, 2018 12:10 AM

A quick peak at the box score won't show it, but Friday provided a glimpse of why the Tigers are thrilled to see what's in store for Matt Manning in 2018. 

The club's second-ranked prospect recorded his first nine outs by strikeout, then added another to tie his career high in Class A West Michigan's 5-4 win against Great Lakes on Friday at Dow Diamond. He allowed three runs on two hits and three walks over 3 2/3 innings in his first start after opening the season on the disabled list with an oblique strain.

Gameday box score

"I was really excited to get back out there from a long offseason," Manning said. "I thought it went pretty well for the first couple and I wish I could have gotten deeper into the game. But things happen and I'm just happy we got the win." 

MLB.com's No. 55 overall prospect allowed one baserunner in the first three innings -- walking Jared Walker in the first -- but ran into trouble in the fourth. Manning nearly escaped, getting Romer Cuadrado into an 0-2 count before the Dodgers' No. 27 prospect worked an eight-pitch walk to load the bases. Brandon Montgomery's two-run single ended the night for Manning, who was tagged for another run when Cuadrado stole home. 

"I kind of got into trouble with [Cuadrado], trying to make every pitch the final pitch of the inning rather than just letting it come to me," Manning said. 

The 20-year-old admitted he was fatigued in the fourth and lost some command. The Whitecaps are focusing on his dominant first three frames rather than the hiccup in the fourth. 

"He was very impressive tonight," West Michigan pitching coach Jorge Cordova said. "His fastball-curveball combination was electric. It was really fun to watch. ... He had a good feel for both pitches. He threw a few good changeups, too, but the fastball-curveball combo was amazing. He did excellent." 

Video: Manning notches 10th strikeout for Whitecaps

Manning's fastball command was precise on Friday, according to Cordova, with that offering in the 92-to-95 mph range against the Loons. 

"The weather was really cold, so when you throw the ball in the 90s, in this type of weather, it looks you're throwing 103," Cordova said.

The No. 9 overall pick in the 2016 Draft split last year between the New York-Penn and Midwest leagues. He went 2-2 with a 1.89 ERA in nine starts with Class A Short Season Connecticut and 2-0 with a 5.60 ERA with the Whitecaps, which included a 10-strikeout performance over five frames in a playoff loss to Dayton.

"This year, I kind of know what to expect and know what the competition is and what I have to do be successful in this league," Manning said.

The 6-foot-6 right-hander was on a 75-pitch limit on Friday, but said that was only temporary to ease him back into competition. Cordova said he'll expect to throw about 90 pitches in his next start. 

After having restrictions put on him in his first full season last year, Manning is thrilled to let loose and go deeper into games in 2018. 

"I think it will be a good test for my development," he said. "It will be a good learning experience to figure out how to compete with myself and get later into games and keep throwing up zeros." 

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Manning is the son of former NBA center Rich Manning, who played three years for the Vancouver Grizzlies and Los Angeles Clippers. He could have played both hoops and baseball at Loyola Marymount, but elected to sign with the Tigers after being drafted. 

Cordova said they'll continue to monitor Manning this season, but they're thrilled to see what he can do in extended outings.

"As a pitching coach you really enjoy watching a kid throw the ball this way," Cordova said. "He had everything you need to be a big league pitcher tonight. Obviously, this is a growing process. Obviously, it's going to take a lot to get there. But when you see Matt Manning on the mound like tonight, you have no doubt in your head there's a big leaguer in there."

Brandyn Sittinger (2-0) picked up the win after relieving Manning, yielding one run on two hits with six strikeouts over 3 1/3 innings. John Hayes earned his first Minor League save with two scoreless frames. 

Luke Burch tripled in the tying run in the eighth and scored the go-ahead run on Colby Bortles' sacrifice fly. Burch went 2-for-4 with two RBIs.

Josh Horton is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @joshhortonMiLB This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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