Blue Jays’ Alek Manoah content with triple-A outing despite mixed results

Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Alek Manoah during a rehab stint with triple-A Buffalo. (Photo by James P. McCoy)

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Alek Manoah approached Saturday’s rehab start in triple-A Buffalo with a clear goal: Attack the strike zone. And while his results were ultimately a mixed bag, the Bisons right-hander feels he made good on that intention. 

It was exemplified during a third-inning at-bat against Rochester Red Wings’ No. 3 hitter Juan Yepez. Manoah got ahead early with two sinkers that were called strikes and then Yepez rallied by fouling off six of the next eight offerings. 

With the count at 2-2, Yepez took Manoah’s 11th pitch of the at-bat up the middle for a base hit. Even though Manoah didn’t win the battle, he was pleased that he continued to apply pressure without giving in. 

“I made my pitch and he hit a ground ball up the middle,” Manoah said afterward. “Any other day, the defence could have been there, any other day the defence is not there. He won it this time and at the end of the day, for me, that’s not what matters. 

“What matters is he’s battling and I didn’t shy away from anything. I continued to attack.”

Manoah entered spring training in the running for a rotation spot with the Toronto Blue Jays but was sidelined for most of camp with a right shoulder issue. Saturday marked his second rehab appearance and while it was an improvement over his first — he allowed six earned runs over 1.2 innings with single-A Dunedin last Sunday — it’s clear the right-hander is still searching for his form. 

Pitching to Blue Jays catcher Danny Jansen, who’s also rehabbing with the Bisons, Manoah did a better job at filling up the zone. He tossed 48 strikes out of his 78 pitches (61.5 per cent) and struck out four while issuing just one walk, which came against his final batter of the game. 

While that level of command was a step in the right direction — especially considering he threw just 44 per cent strikes in his last outing and walked four batters, in addition to hitting another — his results simply weren’t there as the right-hander proved quite hittable to the Washington Nationals’ affiliate. 

In total, Manoah allowed four runs on eight hits (six singles) over 3.1 innings on what was a cold afternoon at Sahlen Field. 

“[We] wanted to fill up the zone today,” Jansen said of Manoah. “I did like his aggression and I liked his confidence in the pitches. We were just trying to go right after guys.”

Blue Jays manager John Schneider highlighted Manoah’s delivery earlier this week as a key that would allow the right-hander to throw more strikes. Schneider said Manoah’s mechanics were off in his last rehab start but he appeared much smoother on Saturday.

“I think he looks good,” said Jansen. “He made a change with his body coming into spring training and he’s throwing the ball well. So, I think everything’s moving pretty well.”

Manoah relied on his four-seam fastball, throwing it for nearly half his pitches. He sat at 92.8 m.p.h. with the offering and topped out at 94.9 while generating seven whiffs on 17 swings. The right-hander, who hasn’t pitched in the majors since last August, says he was content with his stuff but isn’t stressing about results. 

“It’s just continue to attack,” said Manoah. “I can’t control results. I can’t control balls in the infield. I can’t control the weather. I can’t control any of that. I can’t control once the ball leaves my hand.

“I can make the best pitch possible and they can hit it 400 feet,” he added. “What am I supposed to do? So, my job out there is to attack. And today I was attacking and I feel like I was throwing the ball pretty well.” 

Next steps for Manoah will likely include another start with the Bisons as he continues to build himself up. He says he’s healthy and is no longer thinking about his shoulder while on the mound. 

When asked what the Blue Jays are looking to see from him and if his results are a factor, the right-hander was uncertain.

“I’m not sure,” responded Manoah. “I think they’re trying to look for me being healthy and they know that the stuff is there and those results will come. I feel like I threw the ball well today so just gotta continue to build off that.”


Jansen, who’s working his way back from a fractured pisiform bone in his right wrist, says he’s in “a good spot” physically and is beginning to feel more comfortable behind the plate. The Red Wings certainly put his health to the test on Saturday by swiping eight bases, including three by top prospect James Wood.

“I’m definitely getting some more reps throwing, which I like,” said Jansen. “I’m just going to continue to try to get my feet moving in the right direction. I think I was a little bit out of whack myself. So, that’s why I want to keep catching as well, just to get the speed of the game back and kind of get that flow back with myself. 

“So, they’re running, but I’m looking at it as an opportunity to try to get better.”

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In addition to receiving for Manoah, Jansen caught relievers Jordan Romano (right elbow inflammation) and Erik Swanson (right forearm tightness) on Saturday.  Both pitchers are also on a rehab stint with the Bisons after beginning the season on the injured list. Romano walked two of the four batters he faced, while Swanson allowed one run on two hits while recording two outs. 

Following the game, both right-handers said they’re progressing and acknowledged it’s possible they could be activated by the Blue Jays in time for Monday’s series opener against the New York Yankees at Rogers Centre. 

“I know who we’re facing — there’s a lot of great players on the Yankees and I always like pitching against them,” Romano said. “It’s a great team and definitely something I want to be ready for.”

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