Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins bullish on Alek Manoah returning to form as key arm in rotation

Get the latest from Rob Longley straight to your inbox

Article content

He won’t be the opening day starter for a second consecutive season, but the Blue Jays believe Alek Manoah can pitch his way back into an important role in the team’s starting rotation.

Advertisement 2

Article content

How much that belief affects the Jays strategy as the off-season business heats up over the next month remains to be seen, but a bullish-sounding general manager Ross Atkins says he is in Manoah’s corner.

Article content

“I do feel like he has earned already the right to have a strong leg up (on a rotation spot),” Atkins told reporters at the MLB general managers meetings in Scottsdale, Ariz. “I feel so good about him returning back to the 2021-2022 version of himself. It’s a really good starting point for us.”

Given that part of the Jays dealings with the 2022 Cy Young Award finalist include some fence-mending over the way Manoah’s two demotions went down this past season, Atkins’ comments need to be taken in context.

Now that both parties have had an opportunity to breathe and get back on the same page, it sets up as an intriguing spring training for the former first-round draft pick.

Article content

Advertisement 3

Article content

While it’s doubtful the Florida native will simply be handed a spot in the rotation, at least Manoah will report to Dunedin in February with every opportunity to be a key arm in one of the better starting groups in baseball.

“He’s easy to believe in,” Atkins said. “He’s hyper-motivated. He feels like this year was an exception and I’m really looking forward to what’s ahead for Alek, not just this year but years to come.”

The good news is that Manoah seems committed to the reset as well. Recent social media posts of him show what looks like a leaner version of the one that never seemed to get in sync last season. Manoah has never lacked the desire to get after it in the weight room, but he certainly seems committed to getting back in top pitching form.

Advertisement 4

Article content

A key will be a return of the confidence that helped Manoah make such a quick rise to the big leagues, an ascent that continued through his first two seasons in the bigs.

Year 3 couldn’t have gone worse for the opening day starter, however. He battled with location early on with an alarmingly high amount of walks. The more he struggled, the more his confidence seemed to take a hit, a plunge in form that led to the first demotion, an early June assignment to the Florida Complex League.

We apologize, but this video has failed to load.

After spending the better part of a month working at the Jays player development complex in Dunedin, Manoah returned to the Jays. Other than a couple of solid outings, the struggles continued, however, and on Aug. 10 he was optioned to the Jays triple-A affiliate in Buffalo.

Advertisement 5

Article content

That’s when the relationship between he pitcher and the Jays front office seemed to veer off the rails. Manoah didn’t immediately report to Buffalo and, in fact, never threw a pitch for the Bisons in 2023. Instead, the pitcher investigated medical causes to his struggles and received injections to his pitching arm that ended his season.

With those travails behind him — and plenty of time to reset and get right physically — Manoah will have the opportunity to reset his career, especially with former starter Hyun-Jin Ryu off to free agency.

“I’m so excited about Alek,” Atkins said at the GM meetings, which wrap up on Wednesday. “I feel so good about him coming into the year given his body of work, the experiences he has, his motivation and him returning to a really strong position.”

A full off-season to pull it all back together may be just what the pitching doctor ordered for Manoah, an intense competitor who will use the motivational chip on his shoulder to advantage.

Recommended from Editorial

Article content


Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.