Injured, struggling Blue Jays starter may not be guaranteed a big league roster spot once healthy

There may be no room for Alek Manoah on the major league roster even when he comes off the injured list
Baltimore Orioles v Toronto Blue Jays
Baltimore Orioles v Toronto Blue Jays / Mark Blinch/GettyImages

For former Toronto Blue Jays pitching phenom Alek Manoah, 2024 was suppose to be a year of redemption for the 26-year-old. After enduring his worst season in professional baseball in 2023 in which he pitched to a dismal 3-9 record with a 5.87 ERA and a 1.74 WHIP, there was probably nowhere else left for him to go but upwards for the upcoming season.

After coming into training camp in great shape and ready to challenge once again for a spot in the Jays’ starting rotation, his comeback hit a snag when he went onto the injured list following his first spring appearance. In the outing, Manoah’s control and command issues from last year resurfaced, as he surrendered four runs on three hits, including one walk and three hits-batsmen in just 1.2 innings of work. That was when the injury news struck that he was experimenting right shoulder soreness during a bullpen session and has been out ever since.

The latest injury setback presented another obstacle for Manoah to tackle as he tries to work his way back to his previous dominant form that we witnessed from 2021-2022. But recently, Manoah has gotten back into action by throwing a 3-inning simulated game with close to 50 pitches and felt good doing it. His velocity was back up to 96 mph and he recorded six strikeouts in the process. He is now scheduled to begin his rehab assignment with the Jays Single-A affiliate Dunedin on Sunday and could then see further starts at the Double-A and Triple-A levels in the upcoming week or two.

However, even if Manoah does well in his rehab starts, it doesn’t necessary guarantee that he will be given a big league spot on the Jays’ roster when he comes off the injured list. Currently, Bowden Francis is occupying the fifth spot in the rotation following his Impressive showing during spring training. Although Francis struggled to some extent in his first ever major league start, his overall peripherals looked good and will likely get a few more chances at it.

Even if Francis were to falter, there is another pitching threat that Manoah could be competing against, and that is Cuban star Yariel Rodríguez. Also in the process of ramping up his activities in preparation for his big league promotion, Rodríguez impressed in his debut with the Buffalo Bisons, tossing four scoreless innings and giving up zero hits, one walk and six strikeouts. With his main goal being to pitch and contribute at the major league level for the Jays, he now appears one step closer after the great start.

On top of that, the Jays probably won’t consider using Manoah potentially as a reliever, as his pitching repertoire is built for him to be a starter. As a result, either someone has to struggle mightily from the current starting five, or Manoah will have to be absolutely exceptional in his rehab performances if he wants to be able to rejoin the big league team sooner rather than later.

Nevertheless, we wish Manoah all the best in his quest for redemption, and hope that we will see once again the same Manoah that tormented opposing team hitters to the end of day in the near future.