Blue Jays GM Atkins reflects on next steps for Manoah after demotion

Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins comments during media availability on the key reason why Alek Manoah has struggled this season and how he was affected by the implementation of the pitch timer.

TORONTO — The last few days for Alex Manoah have obviously been emotional. His descent from one of the best pitchers in baseball last year to minor-leaguer this week would feel jarring to anyone.

However, if there’s a silver lining for Toronto Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins, it lies in observing how the 25-year-old right-hander has handled himself amidst such turmoil.

“One of the things that has not surprised me by any means because of our history with Alek, but really impressed me, is how well he has navigated this, how accountable he’s been,” Atkins said Thursday, a few days after making one of the most significant player development decisions of his tenure as Blue Jays GM by sending Manoah to the Florida Complex League. 

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“He has not shown emotion that would be in any way categorized as anything but having a really strong character,” continued Atkins. “And that gives us an incredible amount of conviction and confidence for what’s ahead for him.”

Manoah, of course, was a finalist for the AL Cy Young award in 2022, in what was the first full season of his big-league career. That’s obviously made his results so far during this campaign even tougher to swallow. He toed the rubber on opening day for the Blue Jays and has since been one of the sport’s most ineffective starting pitchers, posting an unsightly 6.36 ERA with 42 walks across 13 starts and 58 innings.

Atkins said Manoah was travelling to the team’s player development complex in Dunedin, Fla., on Thursday. While there, he’ll utilize the club’s resources, which entail its pitching lab as well as staff members — including pitching co-ordinators Cory Popham and Frank Herrmann, former big-leaguer and special assistant Paul Quantrill, along with assistant pitching coach, strategy, David Howell — to work on the consistency with his delivery and mechanics that have bled into “patterns” that need to be fixed.

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“It is so subtle and so small that patterns (are created),” said Atkins. “And if the wrong pattern starts to (emerge), making that adjustment while competing can become too difficult. So, I think getting him out of the most competitive environment in the world and allowing for him to create a new pattern, closer to the one he had in previous years, is what needs to occur.”

Atkins highlighted the club’s facilities in Dunedin as a better option than triple-A Buffalo because it would allow the Blue Jays to conduct a more effective and complete analysis of Manoah.

As for the length of time the right-hander will be there, the GM did not broach any timeline and said that will be entirely dependent on how quickly Manoah can make adjustments.

He won’t be pitching in any games at first, “but we do want to keep that workload built up that as soon as we’re starting to see that new pattern, closer to the pattern that was so successful, that we can hit go,” said Atkins.

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The GM plans to head down to Florida at some point to visit Manoah and added that some team personnel in Toronto have been involved with his transition and pitching program.

“We feel good about our plan,” said Atkins. “And now I think the thing I’m the most excited about for Alek is just how committed he is to the plan and having some clarity around some steps that we can take.

“I’m confident with his accountability and conviction to do so that he will right the ship.”

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