Manoah struggles with control in Single-A rehab start

April 7th, 2024

NEW YORK -- started his Minor League rehab assignment down in Single-A Dunedin on Sunday, far from the cold competition at Yankee Stadium, and it didn’t go how anyone planned.

Manoah walked the first four batters he faced, throwing just two strikes in his first 18 pitches. His control calmed down from that point on, but by the time the dust settled after 1 2/3 innings, Manoah had allowed seven runs (six earned), including a home run.

There’s some Single-A defense involved in those numbers, of course, but what matters most for Manoah at this point is his control. With four walks, a hit batter and two strikeouts, including just 26 strikes on 58 pitches, Maonah simply wasn’t pounding the zone, which is his entire identity when he’s at his best. Even though the hitters Manoah was facing were much younger and more inexperienced, they knew what to do when handed a favorable count, and Manoah was able to get just three whiffs.

Stat lines from rehab outings rarely tell the entire story, which came up often after Manoah began to pitch again last summer all the way back in the Florida Complex League. On that June 27, Manoah allowed a whopping 11 runs on 10 hits over 2 2/3 innings. After his big league struggles and demotion, it was another jarring twist for a pitcher who just one year earlier finished third in American League Cy Young Award voting. Manoah eventually worked his way back to the Blue Jays, made six more starts and was optioned a second time.

This is still an uncomfortable situation in many ways, given how the end of 2023 played out, but Manoah has plenty of time to change the narrative as he builds back up. The original plan was to get Manoah to Triple-A soon after this first rehab outing, but the Blue Jays could evaluate their options and be more patient, if they choose.

Bowden Francis is currently holding down the No. 5 job in Toronto while Yariel Rodriguez, who pitches Sunday for Triple-A Buffalo, is on the same schedule and could slide in at any point if needed. There’s also Mitch White, currently stretched out as the long man in the bullpen alongside Paolo Espino, or No. 1 prospect Ricky Tiedemann, who stumbled in his outing on Friday but has the top-end talent to dream on.

From here, Manoah not only needs to get himself back closer to 100 pitches, he needs to show the Blue Jays a glimpse of the pitcher who was once this organization’s ace, its Opening Day starter. Manoah came into camp this spring doing and saying all of the right things, looking trimmer and throwing harder. That velocity was still there Sunday, as Manoah’s four-seamer averaged 94.3 mph.

Manoah is at his best when he’s living in the strike zone, though, hammering away at hitters and challenging them to beat him. Sunday’s rehab start is just one outing, but it didn’t offer the encouraging signs the Blue Jays have been looking for.