4 Blue Jays that need to step up for Toronto to stand a chance in 2023

With the Blue Jays by no means assured a playoff place come October, which players need to step up their game during the final eight weeks of the regular season?
Los Angeles Angels v Toronto Blue Jays
Los Angeles Angels v Toronto Blue Jays / Mark Blinch/GettyImages
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Alek Manoah

The rotation has been -- for the most part -- a source of stability this season for the Blue Jays, thanks to a combination of consistency but also durability. As a result, they are fourth in the Majors in ERA, third in strikeouts and 10th in batting average.

Making all of this more impressive, is the reality the Blue Jays have achieved this without a steady fifth option. This is where Alek Manoah comes in.

Manoah entered this season as the staff ace, following a sensational 2022 campaign. He was selected to the All-Star Game, finished third in AL Cy Young voting and named to the All-MLB first team.

The world seemed to be at the feet of the 25-year-old, but then it all started to break apart beneath him. He got a shock right out of the gate, allowing nine hits, two walks and five runs on opening day, in an outing which lasted just 3.1 innings.

April offered glimpses of what Manoah was capable of, including allowing just two hits and no runs in 7.0 innings versus the Yankees in New York. However, he also pitched another disaster, giving up nine hits and seven runs in 4.2 innings against the Rays.

In May, the bad starts were becoming more frequent, with all areas of the Homestead, Florida native's game failing him, highlighted by significant issues with his location. Enough was finally enough, after he allowed seven hits and six runs in just 0.1 innings early in June, versus the Astros.

In a move Manoah wasn't happy about, the Blue Jays optioned him to the rookie-level Florida Complex League. You further wondered just how bad things were, when he subsequently gave up 11 runs in just 2.2 innings during an outing with the affiliate.

However, following a promising outing for Double-A New Hampshire, the righty was recalled to the Blue Jays somewhat earlier than anticipated. Since his return results have still been mixed in five starts, with a 4.26 ERA and 1.382 WHIP.

For some context, prior to being optioned to Florida, Manoah recorded a 6.36 ERA and 1.897 WHIP. In other words, however you choose to base you assessment of him, there has been reason for some encouragement since he rejoined the Blue Jays.

The next step is for the 2019 11th overall draft pick to continue showing some improvement, no matter how minor. As much as the Blue Jays would obviously love to see a return to last year's form, even being a reliable fifth option at this stage would help with the team's overall results.