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Olney on Manoah being shut down: 'This is a bad career move'


Buster Olney joined First Up on Tuesday morning on TSN 1050 and provided an update on the status of the Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Alek Manoah.

"He reacted negatively to being sent down," said Olney.

There were reports that Manoah did not report to the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons after being demoted on August 11, which Olney confirms.

"Every year there are literally dozens of players who get sent down and don't agree with the decision, but they get on the bus, get on the plane, they go down, they report to go to work to prove the team wrong," he said. "This is a bad career move for Manoah." 

Manoah struggled mightily for Toronto this year after he finished third in American League Cy Young voting in 2022.

In 196.2 innings last season, Manoah compiled a 2.24 earned runs average (third among qualified pitchers) and collected 180 strikeouts against 51 walks.

The wheels fell off this year, with Manoah putting together a 5.87 ERA in 19 starts with 79 strikeouts against 59 walks in 87.1 innings pitched.

"It was actually a few weeks ago that the Blue Jays knew he was not going to pitch again this year."

Manoah was sent down to the Florida Coast League - rookie ball - after he was shelled for six earned runs in just a third of an inning against the Houston Astros on June 5.    

He pitched in one game in rookie ball and made an appearance in Double-A before being recalled for a game against the Detroit Tigers at the start of July.

"We liked what we saw in terms of comparing it to last year as opposed to the beginning of this year," manager John Schneider said at the time. "He's in a zone." 

Manoah pitched six innings of one run ball and picked up the win against Detroit, but things went south for him again after that. Walks once again become prevalent, suggesting that no mechanic change had returned - he walked multiple batters in his final five starts before he was optioned to AAA after an August 10 defeat to the Cleveland Guardians. 

"They sort of cherry-picked his return start against the Detroit Tigers, one of the weakest offensive teams in baseball, probably to try to build some confidence and after that first good look it was all down hill from there," said Olney. 

"I don't know if this is Manoah, I don't know if it's advice he's getting, but I don't know in any sport where it's a good idea to just shut down," added Olney. 

Of players with at least 80 innings pitched in the majors this season, Manoah's 6.08 walks per nine innings ranks third lowest in the league, ahead of only Michael Kopech and Touki Toussaint. 

Olney notes that a trade for Manoah seems highly unlikely at this juncture.

"You can't trade Manoah now, his value would be at absolute rock bottom and they wouldn't get anything of value for him in return until he demonstrates he can come back and pitch," Olney said.  "The [Jays] love his presence on the mound when he's out there, he's fun to watch, but they have to wait for him to get a reality check about where he is in his career."

With Manoah away from the major league club, the rest of the team is in the thick of the AL Wild Card race with the Texas Rangers - who trail Toronto by 0.5 games entering play on Tuesday for the second of three wild card slots - in town to continue a four-game series. 

The Blue Jays dropped game one of the series on Monday by a score of 10-4. Future Hall-of-Famer Max Scherzer gets the start for the visitors on Tuesday.

Olney says the Jays are facing off with a desperate Rangers team.

"Their backs are against the wall, so for the Blue Jays to be taking on the Rangers right now is not an ideal time as you've got a lot of veterans that are essentially fighting for their playoff lives right now," said Olney. 

Hyun-Jin Ryu will toe the rubber for Toronto - a player whose return from Tommy John surgery in July allowed the Blue Jays some flexibility with their starting rotation and softened the blow of losing Manoah.

"The Jays are trying to make the playoffs, you gotta pick your best starters and Manoah clearly wasn't one of those," Olney said.

Toronto enters play on Tuesday at 80-64, with 18 games left on the schedule.

They're stuck in a three-team race for the final two wild-card slots in the AL, with the Rangers (79-64) and Seattle Mariners (79-65) in tow.