WSU product, top prospect gets called up to make MLB debut

May 6, 2024, 2:57 PM

WSU Kyle Manzardo...

Kyle Manzardo poses during the 2023 Tampa Bay Rays photo day during spring training in Florida. (Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

(Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

CLEVELAND (AP) — The Guardians are losing their extraordinary leadoff hitter for a bit and adding one with power and potential.

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Cleveland placed outfielder Steven Kwan, who leads the AL with a .353 average, on the 10-day injured list Monday with a left hamstring strain he sustained while running down a fly ball over the weekend.

His injury is a blow to the AL Central-leading Guardians, but it’s giving the team a chance to promote hard-hitting prospect Kyle Manzardo, a WSU Cougars product who has been bashing minor league pitchers this season and will now join a Cleveland lineup that can use some middle muscle.

Manzardo is ranked as the Guardians’ No. 2 prospect and No. 52 overall prospect in baseball by, and his reputation as a slugger preceded his arrival in Cleveland.

A second-round MLB Draft pick out of WSU in 2021, the 23-year-old from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, was acquired at last year’s trade deadline from Tampa Bay for pitcher Aaron Civale. The Rays were reluctant to part with Manzardo but they needed pitching while the Guardians have been craving a big bat in the middle of their order.

“Kyle is a very good hitter with power and if a pitcher makes a mistake, he can take you out of the park,” said manager Stephen Vogt, who was the Seattle Mariners’ bullpen and quality control coach last season.

Manzardo, who played in the MLB All-Star Futures Game last July at Seattle’s T-Mobile Park, had a strong spring for the Guardians, who had him start the season at Triple-A Columbus to build confidence. He’s done just that, hitting .303 with nine homers, 10 doubles and 20 RBIs in 29 games.

Cleveland fans have been clamoring for Manzardo, who will be the club’s DH and bat seventh in the series opener against the Tigers and is expected to get some playing time at first base. Vogt has inserted Estevan Florial in Kwan’s leadoff spot.

“They told me I would be doing a lot of DHing in the short-term, then mixing in at first base,” Manzardo said.

As a junior at WSU in 2021, Manzardo hit 11 home runs with 60 RBIs and a slash line of .366/.437/.640 for an OPS of 1.076 in 47 games.

Kwan felt tightness in his hamstring and was pulled from Saturday’s win over the Angels as a precaution. An MRI revealed an acute strain and the Guardians said Kwan likely will be out for up to one month.

“Super unfortunate news,” Vogt said. “We’re going to miss Kwanny a lot. You can’t replace somebody like that, but four weeks isn’t horrific.”

Kwan said he had hamstring issues while playing at Oregon State and in the minors.

The Guardians have been one of the season’s early surprise teams — they’re 22-12 heading into their series opener against Detroit — with Kwan a big reason for the club’s fast start.

He seems to start or be in the middle of virtually every rally, and the 26-year-old Kwan continues to be one of the league’s best defensive outfielders. Last year, he won his second straight Gold Glove.

Seattle Sports staff made additions and alterations to this post.

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