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T-Rat Talk: Mark Manfredi

Hard-throwing lefty may look familiar to Brewers fans
May 20, 2024

Mark Manfredi stood out to Timber Rattlers fans in his first appearance at Neuroscience Group Field. The left-hander out of the University of Dayton struck out the first six Cedar Rapids batters he faced on April 18. Kyle Lobner gets the story of Manfredi's adjustment to pro baseball, his velocity

Mark Manfredi stood out to Timber Rattlers fans in his first appearance at Neuroscience Group Field. The left-hander out of the University of Dayton struck out the first six Cedar Rapids batters he faced on April 18. Kyle Lobner gets the story of Manfredi's adjustment to pro baseball, his velocity increase, starting versus relieving, and his entrance music in this edition of T-Rat Talk.

Through Sunday’s game the Milwaukee Brewers had already sent eight left-handed pitchers to the mound in 2024, tied for the most in the majors. The organization has had a lot of experience with hard-throwing southpaws in recent years, but they haven’t seen many with the arsenal of Timber Rattlers pitcher Mark Manfredi.

Like several pitchers who have appeared for Wisconsin in 2024, Manfredi’s professional career is off to a fast start: A year ago at this time he was still pitching for the University of Dayton in the Atlantic 10 conference. There’s a pretty significant difference between the A-10, where the league earned run average was nearly seven in 2023, and High-A professional baseball.

“It’s completely different,” Manfredi said. “This environment is obviously a lot more competitive, and the competition on both sides of the ball is better. It just gives you more confidence in the guys behind you, but the pitching is better too, so I’m getting more confident in myself as the game goes on and the years go on.”

One thing has not changed, however: Manfredi’s high-velocity fastball headlines an arsenal that is very difficult for opposing batters to make contact with. During his time at Dayton he allowed just 7.5 hits per nine innings (compared to a conference average of 10.6), and he’s matched that mark across 22 2/3 innings in the Midwest League this season. As a professional, however, Manfredi has been better at putting hitters away. He’s struck out 38 of the 95 batters he’s faced this season, a whopping 15.1 per nine innings.

It’s been less than a year since he joined the Brewers organization as a ninth round pick in the 2023 draft, but Manfredi cited multiple differences in his game over that time.

“I have to say it’s more of a mindset shift, and also the development I've had with the Brewers from getting drafted until now helped me excel in my game, and then also a mindset shift of winning the race to two strikes and then expanding the zone when needed,” Manfredi said.

The story behind Manfredi’s high-90’s fastball, however, starts earlier than that. Early in his time at Dayton and after undergoing Tommy John surgery, he took on the project of completely overhauling his pitching mechanics. He ended up modeling his new delivery after a very familiar name for Brewers fans.

“I started working with a company called Tread (Pineville, NC-based Tread Athletics), I worked with them for a year, and then started taking a deeper dive into mechanics, actually learning how my body moves, doing mobility assessments, and eventually I got to the player comp of Josh Hader,” Manfredi said. “Me and Josh Hader have very similar mobility assessments, and once we break it down we’re very, very, very similar. So as soon as I started comping my mechanics after him velocity started coming and then as I threw harder with more max intent, it just became more efficient and cleaned up and that’s when I started throwing harder.”

Third-party training companies like Tread have been a rapidly growing part of the baseball landscape in recent years, and many affiliated organizations have taken notice of their results. Devin Hayes, the performance coach who worked with Manfredi during his time at Tread, is now a pitching coordinator in the Tigers organization.

Like many pitchers early in their professional careers, Manfredi will need some time to adapt to the workload of a full-time starting pitcher over a full season. With Wisconsin he’s largely been working as part of a pitching tandem, where he and fellow lefty Tate Kuehner each pitch extended innings in the same game. Being the second pitcher to throw in a game can be a challenge for pitchers who are used to specific pre-game routines, but Manfredi has been successful with it. He was pitching in relief when he picked up his first professional win against Quad Cities on May 8.

“It is a different mindset but the routine stays the same, if that makes sense,” Manfredi said. “My mindset, what I have on the back half of the tandem, I do my normal routine, I throw when the starter normally throws but I cut the volume. I still go through my normal routine, the only thing that changes is when I get ready in the game.”

It’s possible that experience coming out of the bullpen will serve Manfredi well as his career progresses. Earlier this month MLB Pipeline identified him as a pitcher in the Brewers organization who could be a future closer at the MLB level.

“He’s shown a fastball up to 97 with a promising slider at High-A Wisconsin. He’s fanned 42.4 percent of his batters faced in the Midwest League, thanks in part to deception and a low three-quarters arm slot, and he has a curveball and changeup to play with too. He’s piggybacking for now, but he’d fly as a bullpen arm who can dominate lefties,” they said.

At the time of his interview on Thursday Manfredi had not seen the Pipeline piece, and said he’s not worried about the additional attention or pressure that pieces like it may bring.

“As long as I stick to my game and stick to my strengths I’m not worried about what anybody throws at me. I’m confident in my preparation,” Manfredi said.

Given his stuff and his Hader-based delivery, it’s not difficult to picture Manfredi coming out of an MLB bullpen in the ninth inning to log saves someday. It’s a possibility he’s open to, but he also likes his current role.

“I do like being a starter, but being on the back half of the tandem sometimes, the adrenaline rush is something crazy when you get your name called,” Manfredi said. “So it is something I could potentially see if the Brewers see it as a fit, but as of right now I plan on being a starter.”

Whether he’s coming out of the bullpen or pitching the top of the first inning, Manfredi has an unusual element to his entrance to a game: His warmup song is the traditional Italian song “Che La Luna.” For Manfredi the tradition dates back to his college career and reflects a culture that helped shape him as a person.

“I come from a family of immigrants from Italy. Very, very Italian,” Manfredi said. “Grew up on the culture a lot, every Sunday was pasta and meatballs at my Nona and Papa’s, super family-oriented. And at Dayton, one of my real good buddies, (2024 Flyers closer) Nick Wissman, was like ‘dude, you’re this big Italian guy, you embrace the Italian culture, why don’t you just play this song as your walkup?’ And ever since then I’ve been pitching really well and I kept it.”