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Blue Jays’ Alek Manoah feeling ‘really good’ following live BP session

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Photo credit:Dave Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Thomas Hall
25 days ago
Starting this season in the majors is out of the question, but Alek Manoah is only focused on what he can control while recovering from a shoulder injury that’s put his redemption tour on hold for the moment.
Nearly a month after his only Grapefruit League start on Feb. 27, Manoah was back on a mound during a wet and windy Friday morning at the Toronto Blue Jays’ player development complex in Dunedin, Fla. He began with a side session under one of the roof-covered training areas before heading out to throw an inning of live batting practice.
But the 26-year-old hurler wasn’t bothered by the elements. Nothing was stopping him from toeing the rubber, albeit on a backfield, and facing actual hitters for the first time in weeks.
“I just want to pitch,” Manoah told Sportsnet’s David Singh following Friday’s throwing session. “Whenever I can get out on that mound, I’m not taking it for granted and [will] compete as hard as I can. Whether that’s in the game, whether that’s a live BP with lots of rain, it doesn’t really matter for me.”
The batting practice session lasted one inning, with Manoah throwing 23 pitches and showcasing a lively fastball that maxed out at 96 m.p.h. on the gun. He faced teammates Rafael Lantigua, Spencer Horwitz and Davis Schneider, registering three punchouts across four at-bats against that group.
Afterwards, the right-hander said he felt “really good” coming out of his one inning of work.
It was the closest Manoah had gotten to participating in a live-game setting since his disastrous spring debut against the Detroit Tigers last month, where he departed after allowing four earned runs on three hits, three hit-by-pitches and one walk in just an inning and two-thirds.
“I wasn’t really going out there with expectations,” said Manoah. “Just trying to fill up the zone and try to compete. Really not think about anything else. And I feel like I was able to do that.”
The Blue Jays sent Manoah for an MRI — which came back clean without any structural damage — a few days later once he felt tightness and soreness in his right shoulder. Since then, he’s received treatment to reduce inflammation and has worked to strengthen that area to prevent it from flaring up again.
Being sidelined from exhibition games certainly hasn’t been easy, though. Watching his teammates prepare for Opening Day when he’s likely to stay behind has been difficult to swallow. But in those moments, he has reminded himself to focus on the day-to-day rather than what might unfold beyond that point.
“When something kind of barks up, you can play the pride game and try to roll through it,” Manoah said. “And that ends up biting you in the butt in the long run. So, it could be pretty frustrating. But I think the biggest thing is just keeping my mind on what I need to do today, what I need to do tomorrow. When tomorrow comes and when the next day comes, worry about that.
“That kind of keeps my mind in a safe space and keeps my feet right where they need to be. And allows me not to miss any steps along the way. Just stay focused on the day-to-day.”
With Toronto’s regular-season opener scheduled for Thursday at Tropicana Field, Manoah will likely remain at the organization’s PDC, where he’ll continue his build-up as the rest of the big-league squad hits the road for a four-game set versus the Tampa Bay Rays.
The biggest hurdle he’ll need to clear in the upcoming days/weeks is proving his shoulder is healthy. But that’s not all. The 2022 American League Cy Young finalist will also need to compete for a spot in the majors, as he had been doing at the beginning of this spring, hoping to move past the 5.87 ERA and 14.2 per cent walk rate he posted in 19 starts last season.
“[I’m] just staying focused on the day-to-day,” Manoah said. “That’s why I don’t know future steps or anything like that. I don’t ask questions or worry about that. That’s above my pay grade. For me, it’s just doing everything that I can every day.
“Put a bunch of good days together I’m sure it will all [resolve].”
The club’s fifth starter’s spot was up for grabs this spring, with Manoah seemingly in front prior to suffering his shoulder injury. That development opened the door for Bowden Francis, and he ran with it, officially winning the job earlier this week. He is scheduled to start the series finale against the Rays on Mar. 31.
José Berríos will take the ball on Opening Day next Thursday, followed by Chris Bassitt, Yusei Kikuchi and Francis. Mitch White will likely round out the starting staff if Kevin Gausman (shoulder fatigue), scheduled to pitch Monday, misses at least one turn through the rotation.

ARTICLE PRESENTED BY BETANO

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