After not being named to the Midwest League All-Star Game in the first go around, Beloit Snappers starting pitcher Evan Manarino planned on heading home for a few days to relax at his home in Southern California. But thanks to an injury to staff mate Angel Duno this past week, Manarino earned a spot with the West Division team and met up with his family on Tuesday afternoon in Cedar Rapids instead.
The Oakland A's 25th-round selection in 2015 out of UC-Irvine certainly deserved to take part in the mid-summer classic after posting a minuscule 1.82 ERA and 66:11 K:BB rate in 74 innings during the first half of the season. Manarino made 14 appearances for the Snappers, including 10 starts, and has been the staff's anchor through the first two months of the season.
Manarino said he was happy to join fellow starting pitcher Boomer Biegalski as an All-Star.
"I was excited," Manarino said. "At first I didn't make it and then the coaches told me I could get added. They weren't sure and told me to hang tight. I was planning on getting a flight home if I wasn't going to play, go home for a few days and relax. A couple days later, they said I got added. We had a couple guys go down for our team with injuries, so once Duno wasn't going and I replaced him."
Since he's slated to pitch the Snappers' first game of the second half Thursday night, Manarino was just a bystander during Tuesday night's festivities. But he appreciated being part of the All-Star experience.
Although the Snappers' results weren't very good during the first half, Manarino said he's encouraged with the work done by the pitching staff.
"Boomer and I were the ones who got to go to the All-Star game, but everyone has pitched really well," Manarino said. "We were one of the better staffs in the league. [Kyle] Friedrichs was pitching awesome and he got moved up. [Michael] Murray has come up and is pitching well. Duno has pitched well all year. We had [James] Naile for a while and now he's up in Double-A."
Manarino, Beloit's first-half ace, won't rest on his laurels during the season's final months, however. Manarino said his secondary offerings need sharpening if he is to take the next step up in the system.
"I've been commanding my fastball well," Manarino said. "I'm not a flamethrower, so I've got to command my fastball and my curveball has come along and is getting sharper. I'm trying to work on a changeup and slider and get more consistent with those pitches. That way I can have a deeper repertoire of pitches I can throw.
"My changeup especially needs to be more consistent. Sometimes I get swings-and-misses and strikes, but a lot of times it's not so much. I need to work on that along with my slider, and then keep doing what I was doing in the first half."
With the exception of a two-game stretch earlier this month when he allowed seven earned runs on 15 hits in 12 innings, Manarino has been remarkably consistent throughout the first half. Aside from those games against Cedar Rapids and Quad Cities, Manarino has allowed more than one earned run just once in 12 outings.
The challenge will be to maintain that consistency especially against West Division teams he's faced on multiple occasions.
"If they've faced you six, seven or eight at-bats already, maybe they know what your out pitch is," Manarino said. "It's another reason I need to get my other pitches better, so I can go to them instead of maybe going to a curveball or slider. It's nice to get ahead with a first-pitch curve or slider, instead of having to throw your fastball."
If Manarino succeeds, he may become the latest Snappers' starting pitcher to earn a promotion.