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Tigers' Matt Manning continues to take no prisoners in quest to retain his rotation spot

Chris McCosky, The Detroit News on

Published in Baseball

TAMPA, Fla. — Matt Manning’s intensity didn’t let up Sunday. He was still in full lather well after he set down eight straight Yankee hitters to end his second spring start.

Asked about facing five of the Yankees’ top hitters right out of the gate, he said, “Sure. Why not? They’re out there. Might as well.”

Asked about his mindset coming into this start, he said, “Pitch. Throw hard. Win.”

He did all those things in the Tigers’ 7-2 spring win over the Yankees at Steinbrenner Field.

The only blemish in his three innings was a 405-foot home run that Juan Soto belted on the eighth pitch of his at-bat in the first inning. It was an entertaining at-bat. Soto topped a 2-2 changeup down the first-base line. Manning got to it quickly and tried to catch it in play and tag Soto in one motion but didn’t secure the ball.

One pitch later, Soto clobbered a slider that stayed over the plate.

 

“I tried to stay in-bounds and he hit a homer,” Manning said. “It happens. I was working on my hard slider. It’s spring.”

He responded to the homer by striking out Aaron Judge and Anthony Rizzo and then pitched clean innings in the second and third, racking up two more strikeouts.

Along with a more intense demeanor, Manning also has featured a very different arsenal to camp this year. His four-seam fastball averaged 95 mph Sunday, up 2 mph from last year. It also had more ride, with a spin rate topping 2,400 rpm. He’s featuring two different sliders, a harder one (87 mph) with a tighter break and a slower one (82) with a bigger break.

His changeup also has been refashioned. It’s firmer (90 mph) and has more sinking action.

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