TORONTO -- Coming off a breakout season in which he emerged as one of baseball’s rare combinations of dominance and durability, Blue Jays right-hander Alek Manoah finished third in the voting for the American League Cy Young Award, as revealed on Wednesday night on MLB Network.
Astros ace Justin Verlander was selected as the unanimous winner by Baseball Writers' Association of America voters, earning all 30 first-place votes for 210 points. White Sox right-hander Dylan Cease (97 points) earned 14 of the second-place votes, while Manoah (87 points) trailed behind with seven votes for second, 13 for third and 10 for fourth. Toronto righty Kevin Gausman also placed in voting, finishing 10th with one fifth-place vote.
It's been a remarkable two years for the 24-year-old Manoah, who burst onto the scene as a rookie in 2021, well ahead of schedule. Even a repeat of his debut season would have been welcomed as a success, but Manoah found another gear in '22, posting a 2.24 ERA and throwing 196 2/3 innings. In a league steadily moving toward shorter outings for starting pitchers, Manoah has bucked the trend, pitching like an old-school workhorse with a new-school repertoire.
What’s always stood out about Manoah, though, to scouts and casual fans alike is his presence on the mound. Standing 6-foot-6 atop the hill, Manoah’s personality is even bigger.
“There’s an extreme focus and competitiveness every time I take the mound,” Manoah said after being named a Cy Young finalist. “I’m very prideful when I pitch. I don’t want guys to hit the ball hard. I don’t want guys to score off me. I don’t want to be the reason that we lose a game. I go out there and when I see a guy in scoring position, I feel like my back is against the wall and I fight my way out.”
Having that big personality isn’t always beneficial. There are countless examples of pitchers -- or young stars in other sports -- who let the emotion control them, and not the other way around. Manoah manages to channel that energy, though, which is one of the reasons he can come up clutch.
“The No. 1 thing that you can always control is your competitiveness and your energy,” Manoah said. “That’s the biggest thing. I’ve put that into my head. It doesn’t matter if my velocity is good that day, if my slider isn’t sliding or my changeup isn’t mixing in well. I just go compete. I feel like I was able to do that.”
Manoah’s season didn’t end how he’d hoped, as he had a tough outing against the Mariners in Game 1 of the AL Wild Card Series. But he’s clearly built to succeed in those moments down the road. Pitching at the front of this Blue Jays' rotation alongside Gausman, Manoah should have plenty more opportunities to do so.
Given how Toronto's season went in ’22, Manoah may have been the most valuable player on the roster. As the rotation’s depth was tested, it was Manoah who the Blue Jays relied on every fifth day to act as a reset, giving the bullpen a breather while he almost surely pitched about seven strong innings. With more of that, this could be his first of many runs at a Cy Young Award.