The day is finally upon us. After a month in the minor leagues, Alek Manoah is returning to the Toronto Blue Jays. He will be taking the mound in Friday's contest against the 38-48 Detroit Tigers, who are currently six games out of first place in the AL Central.
You do not need us to tell you this, but this start could not possibly be of higher importance for Manoah. The right-hander has previously experienced the highest of highs and is currently seeing what the lowest of lows look like. After making the All-Star Game and finishing third in the AL Cy Young Award race last year, the 2023 season has been an entirely different story.
Beginning the year as the Blue Jays' staff ace, the 25-year-old struggled mightily to find anything resembling consistency. Through 13 starts, he managed to post a 1-7 record with a 6.36 ERA, 6.53 FIP and 65 ERA+. His outing on June 5 against the Astros in which he recorded just one out and surrendered six earned runs was where the Jays drew the line. Following that performance, he was sent all the way down to the Florida Complex League so he could retool out of the spotlight.
Working in the lab with some of the finest player development resources the Blue Jays have, Manaoh quietly did his business out of the close watch of the media. He made one official start in the FCL and once again performed poorly. In 2.2 innings of work, the big right-hander struck out three but also allowed 11 earned runs on 10 hits, including two home runs. Naturally, this led most to believe that he was done for good and would never have a chance to return to the major leagues.
It's worth noting that Manoah could've pitched so poorly because he was attempting to see what did and didn't work against live batters. He spent time retooling his game and making some mechanical adjustments, so perhaps this blowout helped him more than it hurt him. One Double-A start later, and it seems that he's on the right track.
Making his first career outing in Double-A, Manoah went five innings, striking out 10 batters, walking three and allowing just one earned run. This looked a lot more like the Manoah Blue Jays fans had come to love over the years.
While some will make the argument that this move was made entirely too soon, it's happening one way or another. Manoah is back in the big leagues with a lot to prove.
Things could certainly go sideways quickly for Manoah, but all signs are pointing to Blue Jays management liking what they saw out of him enough to warrant his promotion back to The Show. We're all going to find out this evening whether he is truly "back", or if he could use even more seasoning in the minors before he's ready to take on the full-time big league starter role once again.
The pressure is on.