Alek Manoah is a mess right now, but the Blue Jays’ other options might be even worse

Photo credit:Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
Cam Lewis
3 months ago
Alek Manoah made six starts during the month of May and the Blue Jays lost all of them.
The best of those six starts was when Manoah pitched into the sixth inning against the Baltimore Orioles while allowing two earned runs. The worst came in Tampa Bay when the Rays tagged Manoah for five runs over just three innings of work. All told, he posted a 6.15 ERA for the month and walked more batters than he struck out.
Following his most recent start in which he laboured through four innings against the light-hitting Milwaukee Brewers, Manoah said that he’s stuck in a negative mindset when it comes to commanding the ball.
“It’s been tough,” Manoah said on Wednesday. “I’m not doing what I’m meant to be doing. I just have to keep fighting and finding positives. The mindset of ‘don’t throw a ball here’ instead of ‘throw a strike right here’ is… it’s a difference maker. Right now, I’m stuck in ‘don’t throw a ball here.'”
This year’s version of Alek Manoah is nothing close to the pitcher that dominated during his rookie and sophomore years. The 25-year-old was a no-brainer to be Toronto’s Opening Day starter this year after he finished third in American League Cy Young voting in 2022 with a 2.24 ERA over 196 2/3 innings.
The big righty’s underlying numbers suggested some regression might be inevitable but nobody saw Manoah collapsing to a point where he doesn’t even look like a Major League starter. Last year, Manoah cleared five innings in all 31 of the starts he made. This year? He’s done so five times in 12 starts.
Many will point out that Roy Halladay had to be sent back down to the minors to reinvent himself following a strong rookie season. Halladay posted a 3.92 ERA over 36 appearances in 1998, got torched in 1999 and put up a 10.64 ERA over 19 games, and then rebounded in 2001 with a 3.16 ERA in 17 starts.
But the contexts here are very different. The 2000 Blue Jays weren’t a contending team expecting a 23-year-old Halladay to help lead them to an American League East banner. The 2023 Blue Jays came into the season with the expectation that Manoah would provide them with roughly 200 quality innings as they seek to finally get over the hump and go on a deep playoff run.
So while it might seem like a no-brainer to send him down to Triple-A Buffalo or the pitching lab in Dunedin to sort himself out, the Blue Jays also need to consider who fills his spot in the team’s starting rotation. And as of right now, nobody has stepped up as a legitimate option to do so.
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It’s not quite ‘we’re going to let Edwin Jackson toss three innings of batting practice because there’s literally nobody else available’ bad, but pitching depth is again an issue for the Blue Jays this season.
They paid a hefty price to acquire Mitch White to be the fifth or sixth guy in the rotation ahead of last year’s trade deadline and he’s put up an 11.42 ERA over six outings with the Bisons this year. Ironically, the prospect that they sent back to the L.A. Dodgers in that deal, Nick Frasso, looks like a much better option to come up and make a start right now.
Elsewhere in Buffalo, journeymen Casey Lawrence, Drew Hutchison, and Luke Bard have ERAs of 4.86, 5.66, and 5.40 respectively. Zach Thompson, who the Blue Jays acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates to be their seventh starter, has a 7.62 ERA in 10 starts. Thompson is the only one of the four who’s currently on the 40-man roster.
There was some optimism that one of Toronto’s top pitching prospects could come up and make a difference on the big-league club sooner rather than later. Ricky Tiedemann has been out with an injury since April and Yosver Zuluelta can’t find the strike zone in Buffalo.
As of right now, it seems the best option for the Blue Jays if they want to give Manoah a breather would be doing a bullpen day. Trevor Richards and Nate Pearson have fared well in multiple-inning outings this year and Bowden Francis has done well in Triple-A pitching three or four innings. Using Francis as the bulk guy after a couple of innings of Richards or Pearson to start could be a fine short-term option.
But, again, this wouldn’t be an ideal situation for a period of weeks or months. If depth arms like Mitch White and Zach Thompson don’t turn things around and become viable options, the Blue Jays will need to add another starting pitcher ahead of the trade deadline.


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