Blue Jays name Alek Manoah Opening Day starter

Manoah put together a brilliant sophomore campaign in 2022, earning an All-Star nod and finishing third in Cy Young voting.

Alek Manoah will get the ball for the Blue Jays against the St. Louis Cardinals on March 30. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

One of the worst-kept secrets in Toronto Blue Jays camp was finally made official on Friday, as the team announced Alek Manoah as its Opening Day starter. Manoah will toe the rubber when Toronto kicks off its 2023 season on March 30 on the road against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Manoah is coming off an exceptional sophomore campaign in which he posted a 2.24 ERA across 31 starts. He was named an All-Star in 2022 and finished third in American League Cy Young voting.

The big right-hander is no stranger to the big stage, as he put on a show in last year's Midsummer Classic when he was mic'd up for his scoreless inning of work. He also started the Blue Jays' playoff opener against the Seattle Mariners last October — an outing that did not go according to plan.

With the way the Blue Jays' early season schedule is laid out, Manoah could also get the nod for the Blue Jays' home opener against the Detroit Tigers on April 11 if manager John Schneider opts to keep all five starters on their regular turn.

While Manoah was the logical choice to start the first game of the season due to his 2022 accolades and his status as a home-grown success story who rocketed through the Blue Jays' farm system, it wouldn't have been shocking if Toronto instead gave Kevin Gausman the honour.

Gausman's first year with the Blue Jays was extremely impressive, with his underlying statistics suggesting his 3.35 ERA actually should have been lower. The 32-year-old led the AL with a 2.38 FIP and 7.32 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Gausman has also looked exceptional during spring training and has yet to allow an earned run in four Grapefruit League appearances.

Manoah doesn't have a tough act to follow in his Opening Day assignment, as Jose Berrios couldn't escape the first inning in the first game of 2022, surrendering four runs in the process. That disastrous outing ended up being a microcosm of Berrios's career-worst season.