Blue Jays: Alek Manoah continues to prove he can pitch in the big games

TORONTO, ONTARIO - SEPTEMBER 13: Alek Manoah #6 of the Toronto Blue Jays reacts after getting his third out of the eighth inning of their MLB game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Rogers Centre on September 13, 2021 in Toronto, Ontario. (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ONTARIO - SEPTEMBER 13: Alek Manoah #6 of the Toronto Blue Jays reacts after getting his third out of the eighth inning of their MLB game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Rogers Centre on September 13, 2021 in Toronto, Ontario. (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images) /

Beginning at the start of Spring Training, many were excited to see how the Blue Jays would shape up considering the mix of young homegrown talent, off-season veteran acquisitions, and some of the younger prospects who were getting their first taste against major league pitchers.

One of those players was Alek Manoah, the Blue Jays eleventh overall selection in the 2019 MLB Draft out of West Virginia University. The right-hander had just 17.0 innings of professional experience down with the Vancouver Canadians back in 2019 coming into this season after COVID-19 canceled all the minor league campaigns last year. Manoah was stellar down in A ball, pitching to a 2.65 ERA with 27 strikeouts compared to five walks through six starts.

While Manoah did spend last year at the club’s alternate training site, this season saw Manoah not only participate in the big league Spring Training camp but also be promoted to start the year in AAA with the Buffalo Bisons.

He started off hot in the Spring (0.00 ERA through 7.0 innings with 15 strikeouts and only one hit) and continued that streak in Buffalo, posting a 0.50 ERA through three games and 18.0 innings while allowing only seven hits and one earned run (which was a home run) with 27 strikeouts and three walks before being called up to the big league roster.

Blue Jays rookie Alek Manoah needed a good start yesterday against Minnesota and delivered, pitching in a big game for the club and earning the win.

Making his debut under the bright lights in New York City, Manoah has been nothing short of fantastic all season. Through 19 starts, the fiery right-hander sports a 3.35 ERA with 117 strikeouts and 39 walks through 104.2 innings. He can be a bit wild on the mound, evident by his 39 walks and 15 hit batters, but his dominant demeanor and ability to pitch around the strike zone has put other teams on notice.

With the Blue Jays currently in the hunt for a playoff spot, the club needed a big start from Manoah as they could not afford to lose yesterday’s game against the Minnesota Twins and potentially fall further behind in the Wild Card race. His last start was a bit of a battle for the righty, going six innings against the first-place Tampa Bay Rays but walking six batters and getting into some tough situations while allowing two earned runs compared to seven strikeouts, eventually earning the win when the game came to a close.

Manoah did not disappoint yesterday, going 5.2 innings and allowing only two earned runs with eight strikeouts, two walks, and two hit batters while earning the win once again. He did have to battle out of some situations he created with the wildness but holding the Twins to two runs was what the team needed from their starter and the lineup was able to put up five runs to seal the deal while the bullpen came in clutch to finish the game.

At the beginning of the season, many feared that Manoah would become fatigued as the season wore on based on his minor league experience with the minor leagues canceled last year. So far, Manoah shows no signs of slowing down and could find himself being the starting pitcher in a crucial game in the final week of the regular season.

While Manoah isn’t scheduled to pitch against the New York Yankees in the upcoming series, he could find himself in a playoff implicating game against the Baltimore Orioles on Friday or Saturday depending on how the upcoming series goes against the Bronx Bombers. If the Jays make the postseason, there is a chance the club may keep Manoah in the rotation considering how well he is pitching or move him into the bullpen as a long-relief option depending on how Charlie Montoyo decides to align the starting rotation (if the Blue Jays make it that far).

It may seem a bit risky to put a rookie pitcher in a crucial game that could impact the Blue Jays playoff hopes but Manoah has been solid so far this year and there should be no reason why the front office or Charlie Montoyo would not have faith in the right-hander starting later this week.

With Nate Pearson battling another injury this season and now finding himself in the bullpen to finish the campaign, the emergence of Alek Manoah in the Blue Jays starting rotation has certainly helped the club contend for a spot in the postseason this year.

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He may be called upon to help clinch the Wild Card spot later this week (again, depending on how the series with New York goes and where they have Manoah pitching with Hyun Jin Ryu possibly returning from the IL) but I am fairly confident the Homestead, Florida product will not fold under the pressure if needed for a high-leverage situation.