The Beloit Snappers have employed a hybrid role for starters and relievers to open the 2016 season, and no one has adapted quite as well to the system as left-hander Evan Manarino.
A 25th-round selection last June out of UC-Irvine, Manarino leads the Beloit Snappers with a 1.34 ERA in 40.1 innings. He is sixth in the Midwest League in that category. The 6'1'' southpaw has allowed just six earned runs on 34 hits and has a 38:6 K:BB rate.
“I’m just doing what I can with the innings I get,” Manarino said. “I’d much rather have my own day and everything, but whenever they tell me to pitch I’ll pitch. It’s been fine. I try to go as long as I can and hand it off to Xavier [Altamarino, his tandem starter-mate].
“[The hybrid system] gives me a certain type of focus, like I’ve got my four or five innings and just work on getting those out of the way instead of throwing eight or nine as a full-time starter. Maybe it’s been a good thing.”
Manarino has allowed more than one earned run in just one of his nine appearances this season. He has been given a longer leash in each of his past two appearances, and Manarino has responded by allowing just two runs in 11.2 innings pitched. On Saturday, he went a season-high 6.1 innings after receiving a rare six-day break in-between starts. His last two appearances were both as a starter for the first time this season.
“My best days I try to get ahead and into good counts for me,” Manarino said of his early-season success. “When I get behind, I’m not a guy throwing 90-plus, so I’ve got to get into leverage counts where I can get to my curveball and slider.”
In order to better prepare himself for a starting role at the higher levels, the Beloit hurler has tried to add to his arsenal of pitches.
“I’ve tried a few new pitches this season,” Manarino said. “Just before we broke spring training, I started throwing a two-seam fastball and slider. I hadn’t really thrown those in the past, but it’s been working well for me. I’m going to keep developing those with my curveball and throwing my fastball and change-up.”
In addition to adding, he’s also done some refinement with a pair of other offerings.
“My change-up and slider are what I’m trying to develop and become more consistent with,” Manarino said. “I’ve been good with the fastball and need to keep commanding that. I need to get ahead with the curveball and put guys away with it. The change-up is a great pitch to throw off the fastball.”
Coming off a long season pitching with the Big West’s UC-Irvine Anteaters, Manarino endured a rough stretch with short-season Vermont coming out of the draft. He started five of 15 games with the Lake Monsters and posted a 5.59 ERA across 38.2 innings. Although his 28:6 K:BB rate was respectable enough, opposing batters hit .293 against him, which is 60 points higher than this season.
Some time away from the game was perhaps just what the doctor ordered for last winter, as Manarino decompressed following a long season of baseball.
“The offseason was long,” he said. “I wasn’t used to going without baseball for that long. I was just lifting and went back to UC-Irvine to work out with their strength coaches. I started throwing in late December, got in some bullpens and threw to some hitters.”
With his arm still fresh from the light winter workload, Manarino hopes to continue on his roll and earn a promotion to High-A Stockton.