FORT MYERS, Fla. — For the first time in what Phillies right-hander Jeff Manship himself described as a “rocky” career, midway through spring training he finds himself being mentioned not only as a candidate to make the big-league team, but also as a possible member of the starting rotation.
“I try not to pay attention to it, I try not to put too much pressure on myself,” admitted the 29-year-old Manship, who went three innings in his first start of the spring on Sunday, allowing a run and on two hits while walking one and striking out one as the Phillies tied the Minnesota Twins, 1-1.
Through seven innings of work, Manship has now allowed just one run on four hits.
After spending parts of four seasons with the Twins and one with the Colorado Rockies, the right-hander might finally be ready to blossom.
With Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez looking less and less likely to be the Phillies’ fifth starter (see story), Manship could turn out to be the Phillies’ biggest surprise of the spring.
“The guy is lights out for the spring,” declared Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg. “It could mean something. This is the time for opportunity. So we’re going to take a look.
“What I’ve seen this spring is, he’s living at the knees. He’s down in the zone. He’s just down. Consistently down.
“And when he does get behind, he knows how to pitch a little bit. He gets hitters out.”
“I was just not consistent,” Manship admitted when asked to analyze his past performance in the big leagues.
“I’d have a good outing, then a bad outing. A good outing, and a bad outing.”
Manship has a 6.42 ERA in 52 career big-league games, including just 10 starts.
“Going into spring training every year, the Twins basically saw me as a reliever,” he said. “Then when I’d go down to Triple A, I’d start.”
But Manship made it clear he would prefer to start.
In December, he signed with the Phillies as a minor-league free agent after the Rockies had let him go.
“The Phillies were the first team that came calling, so it was a no-brainer,” he said. “I really didn’t have any other options at that point.
“I really didn’t know what to expect, coming into spring training. I was going to do my best and put the decision on them.”
On Sunday, Manship relied on his sinker more than anything in holding one of his former teams, the Twins, in check.
“I’m keeping the ball down, that’s the important thing right now,” said Manship, who boasts a 1.29 ERA this spring. “I’m getting guys to hit ground balls. That’s the kind of pitcher I am.
“Today was a good test, coming in here to pitch against my old team, and keeping my emotions in check. I was happy with how things went.
“Someday, hopefully, I’ll get to pitch against them (the Twins) in a real game.”
Replay upholds tie
Two plays, both involving John Mayberry Jr., were subject to review in the top half of the eighth inning Sunday when the Phillies tied the game 1-1.
But, according to Sandberg, there was no actual replay on the first play when Mayberry reached second base thanks to a high throw by Twins third baseman Brandon Waring, because “they didn’t have video on that play.”
After Tony Gwynn Jr. sacrificed Mayberry to third, he slid safely across the plate on Ronny Cedeno’s ground ball to short, tying the game.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire called for a review but the umpires determined they didn’t have enough footage to rule one way or the other, so the safe call stood.
“This wasn’t the real deal,” Sandberg said, regarding the instant replay. “We were warned they had limited cameras.”
The Phillies managed just one hit, a sixth-inning single by Gwynn, through the first seven innings. And they had only two in the game as they played to a tie for the second time this spring.
Cliff Lee will make his third start of the spring Monday in Clearwater against the Braves.