Charlie Manning pitched in parts of five seasons for the Trenton Thunder, and his familiarity to fans made him one of the team’s most popular players. From 2003-07, the soft-tossing lefty appeared in 138 games in a Trenton Thunder uniform as a middle reliever, and was a reliable part of bullpens managed by Stump Merrill, Bill Masse and Tony Franklin.
But although Manning reached Triple-A in each of his last four seasons in the Yankees organization, he never cracked the Yankees roster. His big league dreams finally came true the following season, when he debuted with the Washington Nationals after signing with them as a minor league free agent prior to the start of 2008.
Manning appeared in 57 games for the Nationals that season, going 1-3 and posting a 5.14 ERA. He last pitched in 2009 as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals organization, spending his entire season in Triple-A Memphis.
But now Manning, who will turn 32 prior to the start of the 2011 season, is back. Today, he signed a contract with the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs of the independent Atlantic League.
I’m looking forward to covering Manning again, assuming I’m back on that beat as well, which is not a given. When I first started covering this team in a beat writer capacity, which was 2006, Manning was one of the friendlier faces in the clubhouse.
Enjoy this old 2006 story from the Democrat profiling Manning…
Fans of the Trenton Thunder have had plenty of opportunities to get to know 27-year-old southpaw reliever Charlie Manning. After all, this is his fourth season with the Thunder and fifth in Double-A overall.
But if he keeps pitching the way he has been, the only opportunity fans will be talking about will be the one he’ll be getting in the Bronx.
Manning is 6-0 with a 2.61 ERA in 22 appearances for Trenton, with his win total tying him for fourth among all Eastern League pitchers and his batting average against of .177 leading all Thunder hurlers.
The Thunder temporarily lost Manning for two days in late May, as he was called up to Triple-A Columbus for the third consecutive season. But after just one appearance in which he didn’t allow an earned run, he was back in his familiar stomping grounds of Waterfront Park.
Thunder manager Bill Masse has managed Manning both in Single-A Tampa and with Trenton, and has nothing but praise for his most reliable reliever.
“He’s been very good,” Masse said. “He’s got a real good cut fastball, and he’s incorporated a two-seamer, which he’s always had, but this year he’s throwing it for strikes.”
Manning, who as a starter won a championship with Norwich in 2002, has spent the past two seasons as a reliever after being traded back to the Yankees from the Reds in June of 2004.
The knock on Manning has always been his velocity, with the left-hander topping out in the mid 80’s. And that plays a large role in why Masse has used him out of the bullpen for the past two years.
“He doesn’t have a good changeup for a starter,” Masse said. “When you’re throwing 87-88 miles per hour, you need something to keep you off the fastball. Arm strength is not a real easy thing to find, but some guys find their niche later on in life. He’s still young enough to where three years from now, he could be throwing 90.”
While Masse has only used Manning as a reliever, former Thunder manager Stump Merrill would also use him as a starter, with 18 of his 49 appearances for Merrill coming as a starter. But the Florida native insists he’s learned to love his new role.
“I love getting the chance to throw every day, especially if I have a bad outing,” Manning said. “I can just get right back out there the next day and redeem myself and not sit there for five days and think about it. I like the adrenaline rush of hearing your name get called and getting up and getting going.”
After getting his ring with the Navigators in 2002, Manning’s next big accomplishment may only be a few days away, as his numbers would seem to put him in prime position for a spot on the Eastern League All-Star team.
“If I make it, great. If I don’t, it’s two days off,” Manning said with a laugh.
If the officials in charge of selecting the team make the right decision, the only vacation Charlie Manning should have planned for July 11th and 12th is a trip to Altoona, Pa. to represent his team in the Double-A version of the midsummer classic.
Thunder Notes: Three days short of his 20th birthday, Thunder pitcher Phil Hughes was one of seven Eastern League players named to the All-Star Futures Game. Hughes is the ninth Thunder player in team history to be named to the game, a showcase for top prospects around minor league baseball. He’s the first Thunder player to be named to the game since current big leaguers Robinson Cano and Dioner Navarro in 2004, and is the first to play for the American team in the game. Hughes responded to the nomination by carrying a no-hitter into the 8th inning against Connecticut just two days later…Charleston outfielder Jose Tabata is the only other Yankees prospect set to participate in the game, which will be held in conjunction with the Major League Baseball All-Star Game in Pittsburgh.
Around the EL: Phillies starter Randy Wolf was rocked in his June 21st rehab start against Erie for Reading, allowing six runs on six hits in just 3.2 innings of work…In a surprising move, The B-Mets 22-year-old Mike Pelfrey (3-1, 2.48) was not invited to the Futures Game, but 26-year-old teammate Matt Lindstrom (1-2, 3.18) was.