Blue Jays: Alek Manoah is out for Ross Stripling’s spot in the rotation

Mar 14, 2021; Dunedin, Florida, USA; Toronto Blue Jays starting Alek Manoah (75) throws a pitch against the New York Yankees during the first inning at TD Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 14, 2021; Dunedin, Florida, USA; Toronto Blue Jays starting Alek Manoah (75) throws a pitch against the New York Yankees during the first inning at TD Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

As the day wore on yesterday, the Toronto Blue Jays ‘probable pitchers’ page had the starter for last night listed as “TBD”, with Hyun Jin Ryu supposed to be the scheduled starter for last night’s game giving the organization’s pitching schedule last week. Rumours started swirling about who was going to be starting, and even though Ryu would eventually take the mound (and pitch well might I add), there was a small part of me that was hoping the Blue Jays would call up prospect pitcher Alek Manoah.

Even if you are a casual Blue Jays fan, you have most likely heard Manoah’s name this season. The Blue Jays #5 ranked prospect and third-ranked pitcher in the organization, the Florida native has been lights out early this season. Although he has only started two games this year, Manoah sports a clean 0.00 ERA while only allowing three hits with two walks, 17 strikeouts, and a 0.417 WHIP in 12.0 innings; good enough to earn him Pitcher of the Week honours down in AAA.

After a strong start in Spring Training earlier this year (three starts, 0.00 ERA with 15 strikeouts), the 6’6″ right-hander has now found himself on Baseball America’s top 100 rankings at #93 and #98 on MLB Pipeline. To say Manoah is turning heads both within the organization and in major league baseball is an understatement as he continues to pitch well in AAA.

While you don’t want to get too excited about a pitching prospect in just two games of action this season, Manoah has been so impressive that fans are already clamoring for Charlie Montoyo and the Jays brass to bring him up to the big leagues. While he is still in the Buffalo Bison’s rotation as of right now, a move made yesterday by the organization may hint that he may be getting closer to reaching the major league stage.

Manoah was supposed to start last night against the Worcester Red Sox given the five-day rest schedule but was instead bumped an extra day and will now make the start tonight (as per the time of this article). Why is this a big deal you ask?

As I mentioned earlier, there was some speculation that Manoah could be called up to the major league roster given the Jays’ probable pitcher was TBD yesterday morning/early afternoon. Given that Ryu made the start last night, following him tonight is Ross Stripling, acquired last season from the Los Angeles Dodgers.

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Looking at the starting rotation overall, Stripling is having a bit of a rough season so far, crafting a 5.91 ERA over five starts in 21.1 innings while surrendering 14 hits and eight walks along with striking out 26 batters, spending some time on the injured list (IL) already this year. While Stripling has been steadily improving over every start he makes, moving Manoah to today’s game lines him up with Stripling when it comes to comparing pitching schedules between both rotations.

Hypothetically, if the Blue Jays do call up Manoah to the active roster within the next two weeks, a move that would require someone to come off the 40-man as it is full with 46 players and six on the 60-day IL, the Blue Jays could move Stripling to take over Anthony Kay’s spot in the rotation or move the right-hander to the bullpen given all the injuries. Kay has also struggled this season (albeit limited action) but did have a strong performance last outing against the Philadelphia Phillies. Overall, it really comes down if the Blue Jays would prefer Kay or Stripling as the team’s fifth starter until Nate Pearson returns to the big leagues (assuming as a starter).

Both pitchers have experience pitching in the bullpen and I wouldn’t be surprised if whoever has the better outing in their next start ends up spending some more time in the rotation if Manoah does indeed get called up within the next week or two. If the Jays decide to keep Kay as a starter, the rotation would be left-handed dominated with Ryu, Robbie Ray, and Steven Matz all being southpaws. It should also be noted that Kay hasn’t been guaranteed to get another scheduled start, as he apparently was listed as a relief option in yesterday’s game.

Now, this move could be just a way to give Manoah an extra day of rest given he made the jump from A ball in 2019 to AAA this year with the season being canceled last season. Considering the right-hander was lined up on the same pitching schedule as the Blue Jays ace screams there is more to this move than what we may believe, especially since Manoah is pitching so well early this year.

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While Blue Jays fans didn’t see Alek Manoah yesterday against the Boston Red Sox, I am sure quite a few people will be watching to see how he performs this evening in AAA. Another strong start down in the minor leagues might be just enough momentum to push him over the edge and convince the front office that he deserves a spot on the major league starting rotation.