After latest rehab outing flop, the Blue Jays have an Alek Manoah-sized problem on their hands

After his latest rehab outing flop, the right-hander's path back to the Majors might be a steep one.
Feb 18, 2024; Dunedin, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Alek Manoah (6) gestures after pitching
Feb 18, 2024; Dunedin, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Alek Manoah (6) gestures after pitching / Dave Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Alek Manoah continued his path back to the Blue Jays' big league roster with a rehab start with Single-A Dunedin on Sunday, and this outing brings more question than resolution to the right-hander's redemption arc.

Facing the Lakeland Flying Tigers, an affiliate of the Detroit Tigers, Manoah just couldn't find his footing on the mound. While struggles with control are not necessarily new to the big right-hander, Manoah's command left a lot to be desired as he allowed four walks in less than two innings of work. As if this wasn't worrying enough, all four free passes came in the first four plate appearances of his outing, three of them coming on just four pitches each.

Manoah's final line reads 1.2 innings pitched while surrendering seven total runs and a home run, sporting a 2:4 K/BB ratio on the night. His command would not improve as the outing progressed, as he only threw 45% of his 58 pitches for strikes.

He might have been hit hard a few times by the Lakeland hitters, but most of the damage was caused by control issues on the mound. It's safe to say that this appearance won't necessarily excite or pleasantly surprise Blue Jays fans, but where do things go from here with Manoah? Certainly, a return to form would bolster the back half of a decent Jays rotation, but how far away might that be from coming to fruition, if at all? Even if he manages to find himself in a position to join the big league roster, Toronto's rotation is pretty tightly packed for the time being and it'd be a squeeze to be sure, especially if Yariel Rodríguez continues to find success with Triple-A Buffalo.

"I don’t care about the numbers,” Manoah said. “I felt really good. Everything was coming out really good. I feel like we were around the zone for the most part. But I think the biggest thing is the body felt good, velo was good, (pitches had) movement. So, just got to continue to feel good and continue to attack.”

While it may be tough to watch, this outing is one of the many on Manoah's road to recovery and potentially a comeback to the major league level. His self-belief that he felt this performance went well is a good sign and hopefully one that points him back on the right track. Even if the path might be a long one, it's needless to say that the Blue Jays would gladly accept a healthy and resurgent Alek Manoah with open arms.

Manoah's recent struggles since his All-Star campaign in 2022 have been plain to see, and his drop-off in on-field production is more than concerning for Jays fans. His Cy Young vote-getting performance two seasons ago might be in the rear-view mirror, but the question remains whether similar fortunes might be waiting for the young right-hander in the near future.