CHICAGO — He’s back. Yes already.
“We didn’t set a specific deadline,” said director John Schneider. “We said from day one that he would let us know when he was ready for the work he was doing. And then put the results aside and really focus on what he was working on there. is important to our team this year and will continue to be, and if we feel he is back and ready to contribute, we will go ahead and pull the trigger.”
This past month has been an incredibly unique one. Manoa was one of baseball’s true aces in 2022, finishing third in AL Cy Young Award voting and posting a 6.36 ERA in his first 13 starts in 2023. No one had that square on their bingo card.
Manoa isn’t the first talented young pitcher to have struggled to maintain success, but that loss was extraordinary, and the decision to bring Manoa back not only to Triple-A but to the complex underscores the seriousness of the situation. bottom.
During Manoa’s first few weeks on the facility, he did side sessions and worked in the Blue Jays’ pitching lab. The lab was built to provide players with every imaginable data point in a high-tech corner of the Blue Jays’ recently renovated complex. He’s already created value for a young prospect who’s pitching and speeding up, but Manoa’s arrival put him on his own in the big leagues.
But last week, Manoa’s comeback trajectory took a shocking turn. In his first game in the FCL, against mostly 18-19-year-old hitters, Manoa allowed 10 hits and 11 runs in just two 2/3 innings. Schneider and GM Ross Atkins preached patience, saying they liked what they saw far more than a terrible box score suggested, and promoted him to Double-A New Hampshire, where he started Sunday.
Take 2 is much better. Manoa struck out 10 in five innings while throwing a 1-run ball, and seemed to grow in confidence as the game progressed. That confidence in him has been a very important factor in this regard, which was reflected in his soaring walk rate earlier this year. Manoa himself admitted that he was “trying to be too perfect”, which is not a good starter for the Bulldogs.
“Given all that he’s mechanically done with strike throwing, we’ve always said he has a pretty good checklist of what we want to see,” Schneider said. rice field. “There have been small adjustments mechanically and I like it comparing last year to now as opposed to earlier this year.”
The numbers are important to Manoa, both advanced metrics and box scores, but vision tests are also very important to pitchers like him.
“He’s in the zone,” Schneider said. “His last pitch was 95 mph. This guy will obviously help us.”
That context is part of this. The Blue Jays need a starter.
Ryu Hyun-jin, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery, pitched three innings in his FCL debut on Monday and could be on track to return later this month, but the Blue Jays are on a four-man rotation without Manoa. rice field. Without a reliable sixth starter, the Blue Jays quickly pivoted to the bullpen game, stacking Trevor Richards and Boden Francis.
It worked, but that solution wasn’t long term.
But Friday’s Detroit would be a smart landing spot for Manoa, as he faces the MLB No. 28 Tigers in Team OPS.670 on the road. There’s no “easy” in MLB, but he’s not being asked to shut down the Braves’ batting order in front of a packed Toronto crowd on Friday night.
If this succeeds, it will be the story of the Blue Jays’ season. For a long time, Manoa was the only player who could change Toronto’s fortunes if he could rediscover a form close to his in 2022.
The 45-40 Blue Jays are a team that just needs to shine. Of course, this still has to work, but if it does, Manoah will be the biggest, brightest, loudest spark you could ever hope for.
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