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Tigers give prospects Manning, Burrows enticing taste of big leagues

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Beau Burrows

Chicago — Matthew Boyd got to go to a big-league stadium right out of Double-A, just like Tigers pitching prospects Matt Manning and Beau Burrows enjoyed Tuesday and Wednesday.

But Boyd’s experience in 2015 was far more real. While Manning and Burrows were brought to Chicago to throw a bullpen session for pitching coach Rick Anderson and to get a small taste of big-league life, Boyd was brought up to pitch in actual big-league games for the Toronto Blue Jays.

“I was kind of dragged through the mud,” Boyd said.

He ended up pitching 6.2 innings and was tagged for 11 runs and 15 hits. A much harsher indoctrination than Manning and Burrows got Wednesday.

“If I would’ve had that opportunity, it would have been amazing,” said Boyd, who talked to the two prospects and threw his side session while they watched. “I couldn’t imagine being brought up to Toronto, sitting around guys like Mark Buehrle and J.A. Happ. Just being in a big-league clubhouse and getting to be one of the guys for a minute.

“I am sure they will treasure this.”

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Manning and Burrows, the Tigers’ Nos. 3 and 5 prospects, respectively, just finished their Double-A seasons and were brought to Chicago on Tuesday night. It was Anderson’s idea.

“Just to get a taste of a big-league atmosphere,” said David Littlefield, the Tigers' vice president of player development. “It’s very helpful. And hopefully there’s a little slice of motivation in there to make them realize, continued hard work will allow them to get here.”

Matt Manning

Manning, 20, and Burrows, 21, are projected to spend most of next season at Triple-A Toledo and won’t make any significant impact at the big-league level until 2020. That is not their projection, however.

“This was great,” Manning said. “Just the chance to meet everybody and be with the big-league team, and with Rick, learning how to be a professional and trying to be ready for the big-league level. Obviously, Beau and I want to be here as soon as possible, so it’s great to start building these relationships.”

Both threw bullpen sessions in front of Anderson and manager Ron Gardenhire. They were videotaped and their spin rates and velocity were recorded on a Trackman machine. Boyd, Michael Fulmer and Alex Wilson also watched the sessions.

Afterward, they sat in the bullpen with Anderson and Boyd and talked for nearly 30 minutes.

“It’s a great experience,” Burrows said. “We’re in a big-league stadium, being around big-league players, watching how they go about their business. I have learned a lot this past day and a half that I will take with me into the offseason.

“I am going to work on some of the things I’ve learned in the past few days.”

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Anderson showed Burrows a different grip and release point for his curveball.

“They got some tutelage, for sure,” Gardenhire said. “Mechanical things. We watched (Burrows) throw a breaking ball and, ‘Hey, try this, stay behind it a little bit more and flip it at the end.’ All of a sudden his ball breaks more and he’s like, ‘Ooh, I like that.’”

Manning is 6-foot-6 and the Tigers are a little concerned that he’s not fully taking advantage of that height by crouching too much in his delivery.

“He’s a drop and dive guy,” Gardenhire said. “He’s got long legs and drops on his backside. You’d like to keep him standing a little taller on his backside to get that (downward) angle more.”

Both will be heading to Lakeland to take part in instructional league ball for a couple of weeks before heading to the offseason.

“It’s hard to believe they are 20 and 21 years old,” Boyd said. “They are very mature and their baseball knowledge seems high and it’s growing. When you have extreme talent like they both have  that’s been well-documented  and you are also willing to learn and get better, that has the potential to be an awesome combo.”

Boyd spent a lot of time with Manning and Burrows, sharing his journey and what he’s learned through all his struggles and successes.

“I just tried to explain to them what the constants are,” Boyd said. “The highs and lows, the valleys and peaks. How they are valleys, not bottomless pits. There’s always a way out of it, as hard as it may seem at the moment.

“It’s inevitable that there will be times when you get your teeth kicked in. How fast you respond to it and grow from it is what’s going to determine how you come out of it.”

He told them that everybody who gets to the big leagues has talent. And the separator between success and failure, he said, “is what’s between the ears.”

“These guys have the talent to pitch in our rotation right now,” Boyd said. “But it’s being able to command the fastball and command the breaking ball, no matter the count or situation. Their stuff is amazing. But how are they going to grow in the next year to get here and help us?

“They are hungry for it. They are willing to ask questions to get better. They both are truly impressive.”