By now, Ron Gardenhire is pretty familiar with the Tigers' Big Three.
He's kept on eye on Casey Mize, Matt Manning and Tarik Skubal for the past two years, and this spring he watched them up close. They didn't disappoint. Then baseball went on pause for three months, and Gardenhire almost forgot what he'd seen.
"Those young pitchers, you see them after you haven’t seen them in a while and you start watching them walk out there and throw, these are big old strong boys," Gardenhire told the Jamie and Stoney Show.
So it was that Gardenhire was reintroduced to the 22-year-old Manning at Summer Camp. For all the talk about Manning's heater, which touched triple digits in spring training, his curveball might be his nastiest pitch. It nearly buckled Gardenhire's knees, even as he stood behind the mound.
"When you’re behind him as a shortstop or second baseman would be, you watch where his arm angle is and the velo he has and how the ball comes out. But when he throws a curveball, oh my goodness gracious. I wouldn’t want to be a hitter," Gardenhire said. "Some of those things are just, wow.
"I know everybody talks about them, but when you’re actually out on the field and get to see them its pretty impressive."
It's a hammer with hard, tumbling action, reminiscent of Justin Verlander's. Manning gets similar extension with his 6'6 frame and overhand delivery. Combine it with a Verlander-like fastball, and you start to understand the hype around one of the top pitching prospects in the game.
Not to sell Mize or Skubal short. Mize faced seven hitters in Thursday's instrasquad scrimmage and retired them all, including a three-pitch strikeout of Miguel Cabrera. Asked what he liked about Mize's outing, Gardenhire chuckled and said, "Well, about everything."
For Gardenhire, it's starting to become routine.
"I've seen him pitch before, so I guess when you start expecting things like that it says a lot. But he was filthy," said Gardenhire. "He knows how to read a hitter, you can see that. Knows how to set up a hitter. He can add and subtract probably as well as anybody right now with his pitches. He just has a great feel for the hitters.
"You got a good one here, and that was exciting to watch today."