Skip to main content


Now is the time to bring back Manoah


The Blue Jays are in need of an extra starter. Yariel Rodriguez is on the injured list with a sore back and Toronto has an empty rotation spot on Sunday.

Their options are somewhat limited as their overall starting pitching depth has been challenged with injuries to Rodriguez, top prospect Ricky Tiedemann (ulna nerve irritation), and Bowden Francis (flexor tendon strain).

The next obvious option is former ace Alek Manoah.

Manoah has been on a rehab assignment in the minor leagues this season, working his way back from right shoulder soreness. His numbers in five starts spread between Single-A Dunedin and Triple-A Buffalo are startlingly bad. The 26-year-old is 0-2 with an 8.69 ERA, having allowed 28 hits and 11 walks in 19.2 innings.

But a closer look at his four starts in Buffalo shows rather dramatic improvement. He’s yielded 23 hits and seven walks in 18 innings with 26 strikeouts and a 6.50 ERA. It’s Manoah’s last start on Tuesday that has everyone buzzing.

Manoah threw six innings of one-run ball with two hits, two walks and 12 strikeouts. It was a start that manager John Schneider called “very encouraging.” If there is a time to activate Manoah, this is it. I always liked to bring players to the major leagues when they have confidence and are coming off of a good performance. That’s where he is.

I would tell Manoah that he is just being activated for a start or two until Rodriguez is feeling better, so he doesn’t feel like it is do or die for him to stay in the majors. I want him to expect that his stay has an ending, and that an option to the minor leagues is still a real possibility.

If he manages to rattle off a start or two like what he threw for Buffalo, I would certainly consider keeping him in the majors. But it is important to manage his expectations on the front end. 

In his start on Tuesday for Buffalo, Manoah had so many punchouts because he used his slider often and effectively. He threw it 44 of his 92 pitches and got 13 swings and misses. He used his slider in this game more than he had in any of his 70 major-league appearances. The 13 swings and misses on his slider tied a career-high. His fastball topped out at 95.9 mph. What was most impressive is that he threw strikes; 62 of his 92 pitches were in the zone and he only walked two batters, which was a big issue for him a year ago. He showed that the quality of his stuff is good, and he is confident enough to throw it over the plate. That’s serious progress. 

The Jays were off on Thursday. They’re also off on Monday and next Thursday. They can definitely get by with a four-man rotation, if they prefer. They don’t really need a fifth starter again until May 15. This would allow Manoah a couple more starts in the minors to make sure he gets his confidence locked in.

Again, I would let Manoah make the start Sunday and then decide what to do next based upon the results and the rehabilitation of Rodriguez and Francis. But they do have some flexibility in managing the rotation because of the schedule.


Bouncing between Buffalo and Toronto

The Jays have let Manoah bounce between Buffalo and Toronto as he makes his rehab starts.

This has allowed him to throw his bullpen session in front of major-league pitching coach Pete Walker and the front office. It also assuages Manoah’s emotions a bit, which isn’t the worst thing. It makes him feel loved and special, and if that helps the rebuilding process, so be it.

If he is activated and later sent to the minor leagues, he will not be able to join the Jays in Toronto between starts. He’s only been able to recently because he’s been on the major league injured list. It is one of the benefits of having a Triple-A affiliate so close to the major league city.

When I was with the New York Mets, we would send our players to the Brooklyn Cyclones on rehab assignments, which was a short season Single-A team back then. The level of competition wasn’t great, but the convenience was. The Jays have the best of both worlds being so close to their highest minor league team. 

I am not a big fan of placating the players’ emotions, but as long as they don’t abuse it, I do think that the mental well-being of players during rehab is critical to their return as quickly and healthfully as possible. If keeping them around other major leaguers helps, then I am all in.

Communication is going to be really important with Manoah right now. He will think he is ready to rejoin the team and stay. He will expect that, if he does adequately, he will stay in the rotation in Toronto. The organization has to make decisions that are right for the whole, not the individual. That is not always easy to hear or understand from a player’s perspective. The front office will need to be clear, direct and honest.

Hall of Fame manager Jim Leyland said it best: “If you mislead a player you lose them forever. If you tell them the truth, you lose them for 24 hours.”


Trout can’t shake injury bug

Poor Mike Trout. He is hurt again.

This time he tore cartilage in his knee and needs surgery. He doesn’t know exactly when or how he injured it. The pain just kept increasing to the point it was unbearable. So, for the fourth straight year, he will miss substantial time due to injury.

It is unclear how much time he will miss this season, but it could be as much as three months. It also likely means that for the 10th straight year, the Angels will not make the playoffs and for the eighth straight year, they will finish under .500. 

Trout was off to a powerful start with a league-leading 10 home runs before the injury. He had worked hard to put himself in a position to play a full season. In fact, in addition to the 10 homers, he has six stolen bases already, which are as many as he had in the previous four seasons combined.

Trout is still just 32 years old, but it seems his connective tissue is aging more rapidly. He is not a fast healer either. His career seems to be running the course similar to Ken Griffey Jr., whose body started giving out on him at the age of 31. Trout, like Griffey, was on pace to be considered one of the greatest players ever, if not the greatest ever, but injuries lessened his overall impact.

I don’t think we will ever see the MVP-level Trout again. He will show flashes of his greatness but not with the consistency he had early in his career. Trout may never get to the playoffs again. It is a shame. He still has six years and $212.7 million remaining on his deal after this season.

The Angels seem years and years away from being competitive and Trout has an untradeable contract. No team will take on his money because he is so injury prone and it would take the Angles eating at least half for a team to even consider trading for him.

He will still be one of the best who ever played, regardless of how his story ends.