Monday, May 20, 2024

Blue Jays’ Alek Manoah to make first MLB start since disastrous 2023 on Sunday vs. Nationals

Toronto Blue Jays right-hander Alek Manoah will make his first big-league start since last August on Sunday, when he takes on the Washington Nationals.

Manoah, 26, had been sidelined for the first month-plus of the season because of shoulder inflammation. Manoah made five rehab appearances on the minor-league side of things, compiling an 8.69 ERA and a 2.55 strikeout-to-walk ratio. To his credit, he did perform last time out, holding the Pittsburgh Pirates‘ Triple-A affiliate in Indianapolis to one run on two hits and two walks over six innings. Manoah punched out 12 of the 21 batters he faced and threw 92 pitches.

During Manoah’s absence, the Blue Jays used Bowden Francis and Yariel Rodriguez to fill his void. Both Francis (forearm tendinitis) and Rodriguez (thoracic spine inflammation) are now on the IL themselves.

“Sometimes, when you’re rehabbing, you think so much about your body feeling good. And when you’re struggling, you spend so much time trying to control little things,” Manoah told Sportsnet Saturday. “But I’ve finally got to a point where I feel really great and my mechanics are in a good spot. Now, it’s just about going out there and competing and playing baseball.”

Manoah, who finished third in American League Cy Young Award voting back in 2022, is coming off a disastrous season. He made 19 starts last year, tallying a 5.87 ERA (72 ERA+) and a 1.34 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The Blue Jays demoted him to the minors in June before bringing him back up a month later. He then saw his season come to a close prematurely in August for reasons that were never entirely explained.

The last time Manoah pitched in the majors was Aug. 10, 2023, against the Cleveland Guardians. He allowed four runs over four innings of work.

Manoah, for his big-league career, has a 3.32 ERA (124 ERA+) and a 2.57 strikeout-to-walk ratio. In addition to nearly winning the Cy Young Award in 2022, he also received down ballot consideration for the Most Valuable Player Award and made his first (and to date only) All-Star Game appearance. 

The Blue Jays entered Saturday with a 15-18 mark on the young season, tying them with the Tampa Bay Rays for fourth/fifth place in the American League East.

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