TORONTO – The Blue Jays hit the reset button on Alec Manoah.
It’s been an amazing couple of months for a pitcher who finished third in MLS Cy Young Award voting just one season ago. Not only did Manoah look like a modern frontline workhorse, he quickly emerged as one of the faces of the franchise, a cornerstone around which courses would be built for years.
Instead, Manoah’s “early struggles” eventually became more serious, as his mind game and handedness ignited in a fight that neither could win. Manoah no longer attacked hitters with the aggressive approach that perfectly matched his larger-than-life demeanor on the mound, and I soon saw that the big right arm wasn’t simply built to be an edge-chopping pitcher.
“It’s not a non-volatile reaction,” said manager John Schneider. “As I’ve been saying all along, we want to make sure we’re doing everything we can to help him get better, and we feel like it’s the right first step.”
But the Florida Complex League isn’t just a move. It’s a million miles away.
Geography is important, and Manoah is basically sent to where it all began in spring training. The Blue Jays’ sprawling, flamboyant complex boasts all the technology and resources a struggling pitcher could dream of, which would allow Manuah to progress at his own pace. Besides, this process will require patience from both Manoah and the Blue Jays.
“Alec is a guy who, as we’ve talked about for a long time, we’re confident when he’s the same, will continue to be a big part of what we’re trying to do,” Schneider said. “In that environment is the place to start.”
In the early days of this, all the Blue Jays want to see from Manoah is a bullpen session. Many eyes and cameras will be cast at him, but he won’t get into games just yet. He’ll cast in his new pitching lab in Toronto, figure out exactly what he and the Blue Jays need to focus on and go from there.
It’s easy to compare this to Roy Halladay, who was brought back to Single-A in 2001 to reconstruct his delivery, but we’re looking at very different shooters, people, struggles, and resources. Honestly, some stories are rare for a reason, and both Manoah and the Blue Jays are entering somewhat uncharted territory in a sport that puts a lot of energy into avoiding exactly those areas.
Schneider made something else clear, too. Manwah is still part of that team, even if he’s in a different area code. This is not an “out of sight, out of mind” situation, and the team will be actively working with Manoah throughout.
The organization plans to “get the ball” by sending David Howell, its assistant pitching (strategy) coach, down the line with Manoah. This group will also include remote assistance from Pete Walker and Jeff Ware with the potential for more hands-on involvement from Paul Quantrill, a 14-year MLB veteran who is back with the Blue Jays front office as a special assistant.
There is a mental hurdle to clear as well amidst this mess of physical hurdles. Manoah’s struggles were never more evident than in Toronto two starts ago, when he had to fight his feelings.
Manoah said, “The mentality of ‘don’t throw a ball here’ rather than ‘throw a ball here’ is…it’s a difference maker.” Right now, I’m stuck with the “don’t throw a ball here” thing.
This is a long way from what anyone expected in 2023, but the Blue Jays are adjusting to the new reality quickly. Bowden Francis was called up, representing a possible option to take Manoah’s spot in the rotation, but Toronto’s swing depth wasn’t designed to handle much greater pressure than this. To date, MLB has been the only club to use only five players.
from here? All this is work. It’s a tough job with no real blueprint and no real timeline.
“When he’s ready, he’s ready,” Schneider said.
There may come a time when, as with Halladay, she is just a fine note in a long and drawn-out writing career. Manoah is certainly able to achieve this. For now, though, it’s a complete reset for both the Blue Jays and one of their biggest stars.
“Total coffee junkie. Tv ninja. Unapologetic problem solver. Beer expert.”