Alek Manoah Has Been Thrown Another Curveball

Alek Manoah has been through many ups and downs in his big league career, with the Blue Jays starter back on the sidelines with a UCL sprain.

Alek Manoah
TORONTO, ON: Alek Manoah #6 of Toronto Blue Jays looks at an iPad in the dugout. (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images)

A first-round pick for the Blue Jays back in 2019, right-hander Alek Manoah has not had the normal progression one would expect for a big-league pitcher.

He made six starts with High-A Vancouver following the draft but didn’t pitch competitively in 2020 with the minor leagues shutting down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A strong spring in 2021 and three starts in Buffalo saw the West Virginia alum head to Toronto in short order, with just 35 innings in the minors under his belt before taking a turn in the Blue Jays rotation. It was a quick move up the ladder for the top prospect, who had just a fraction of the experience within the farm system compared to other pitchers in the big leagues whose names aren’t Paul Skenes.

Fast forward to today, and Manoah has seen both the highs and lows that one could experience on the big league diamond.

His first two seasons with Toronto were electric, as the 6-foot-6 Florida product produced a 3.22 ERA in his rookie campaign through 111 2/3 innings and followed that season with an even more impressive showing – pitching to a 2.24 ERA through 31 starts that saw him finish third in AL Cy Young voting by seasons end. He was quickly establishing himself as a go-to pitcher for manager John Schneider and even earned the Opening Day start for the 2023 season given his efforts the previous two seasons.

Ad – content continues below

Disastrous 2023 Showing

What followed in 2023 was a complete 180, as the right-hander struggled mightily with his command and was a shade of his former self on the mound.

Through 87 innings and two different minor league stints, Manoah produced a 5.87 ERA through 19 starts and pitched to a 6.1 BB/9 with a 9.6 H/9, as opponents continuously teed off on the Blue Jays starter to the tune of a .388 OBP and a .848 OPS. He would finish the season on the IL and in Triple-A, needing injections in his throwing arm and capping an end to a nightmare season for one of the club’s most promising starters.

With the 2023 campaign in the rearview mirror, Manoah entered this season looking to secure a spot in the rotation and was trending in the right direction before a shoulder injury saw him begin the year on the IL. Bowden Francis snagged the last spot in the rotation instead.

Following a rehab stint in the minors through April, the Blue Jays recalled Manoah in early May and he met adversity in his first start against the Washington Nationals. He allowed six hits and six earned runs through his first turn in the rotation and while there were some positives given the previous season, he also gave up two home runs and four walks as he continued to adjust to life back in the majors.

With the depth thin, the Blue Jays turned to Manoah again seven days later and the right-hander rewarded their efforts against the Minnesota Twins in the form of a seven-inning, four-hit performance where he allowed three runs – all of them unearned – while striking out six compared to just one walk. He earned the loss on the day because the Blue Jays bats couldn’t figure out the Twins pitching staff but it was a solid performance for ‘Big Puma’.

UCL Sprain For Manoah

Manoah made two more starts before facing the Chicago White Sox at Guarantee Rate Field where things once again went south for the righty, although it wasn’t on the box score. In the second inning, Manoah threw an inside pitch to former teammate Paul DeJong and gingerly walked around the mound. He was removed from the game and was later diagnosed with a UCL sprain, with Manoah slated to get a second opinion on his injury with Dr. Meister, a well-known orthopedic surgeon who has worked with numerous baseball players on elbow-related injuries over the years.

Ad – content continues below

It’s another hurdle for the Blue Jays pitcher, one that is bittersweet considering he was progressing well in the hopes of reclaiming a spot in the big league rotation after such a dismal campaign last year. The Jays pitching depth has been tested on numerous occasions this season and losing Manoah for an extended period is not ideal for both club and player, especially with so much at stake for a club looking to contend for the postseason but struggling to meet expectations on both sides of the game.

Manoah joins a long list of Blue Jays players who are experiencing elbow problems, mostly down in the minor leagues as Brandon Barriera underwent brace surgery on his throwing arm, Landen Maroudis underwent surgery on his left elbow, and top prospect Ricky Tiedemann missed some time with nerve inflammation in his elbow as well.

Looking ahead, the hope is that Manoah has avoided a serious injury at this point and he will hopefully return to the mound in short order as the Jays try to dig themselves out of the bottom of the AL East.

Considering the ups and downs the 26-year-old has gone through early in his career, this most recent elbow injury is just another hurdle for the Florida product to overcome that will hopefully see him return to his 2022 form, one that Blue Jays fans prefer over the recent slide he battled through last season.