In response to Manoah's struggles this season, the Blue Jays are sending him to the bottom of the minor-league ladder and hoping he can work things out in the Florida Complex League.
🔹 RHP Chris Bassitt reinstated from Paternity List
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🔹 RHP Jay Jackson and INF Ernie Clement optioned to Triple-A
🔹 RHP Alek Manoah optioned to Florida… pic.twitter.com/r4rtfqzboV
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) June 6, 2023
Considering that the 25-year-old exited Monday's game with a 6.36 ERA, 6.42 xERA and 6.52 FIP, it's not surprising the team took action. The Blue Jays are fighting for a playoff spot, and having a starter who tanks their chances every fifth day isn't a sustainable state of affairs. Toronto is 4-9 with Manoah on the hill and 29-19 when any other starter takes the mound.
Those results set the stage for a move. That doesn't mean this move isn't surprising.
Sending Manoah to the team's Rookie-level affiliate sends the message that he has a lot to work on before he will contribute in the majors again.
This isn't a start or two in Triple-A to build confidence. Instead, the Blue Jays are exporting Manoah to a low-pressure environment where he can get back to basics and build himself back up slowly. There's no telling how long this process will take, but this assignment makes clear that there's work to do, not just a mental break to take.
Based on what we've seen from Manoah this season, it's difficult to fault the logic. The big right-hander has struggled in just about every way imaginable, from allowing the most walks in the major leagues to conceding more stolen bases in 58 innings (12) than he did in his first two MLB seasons combined (8). He has also experienced a velocity decline and diminished movement on his trademark slider.
Manoah has barely seen minor-league ball, with just nine MiLB outings under his belt before he broke through with the Blue Jays. Now he's being sent to a level lower than he has pitched since high school.
If Toronto had sent him to play Rookie ball after being drafted 11th overall in 2019, it would've been seen as an indication that he was an extremely raw college player. Instead, he's headed to that level less than a year after appearing in the MLB All-Star Game. How much Manoah pitches there remains to be seen, as the right-hander might spend his time working at the Blue Jays' Dunedin complex, as opposed to getting into games.
Schneider explained the decision to Sportsnet's Hazel Mae on Tuesday, communicating the need for Manoah to be in a "controlled environment," where he doesn't have to worry about the pressure of high-level competition.
— Hazel Mae (@thehazelmae) June 6, 2023
Manoah also received an outpouring of support from his teammates and fellow pitchers ahead of the Jays' game against the Astros on Tuesday.
“First and foremost, I think his maturity through the struggles has been really under looked," Chris Bassitt said. "How he's handled himself on and off the field is really admirable. So I really wanted to say that first and foremost.”
“I can tell Alek and people going through the same thing he’s been going through: keep believing in yourself," said Jose Berrios. "Keep working. He still has the ability and opportunity to get better. I know he’s going to be back with us sooner than later.”
This isn't a punitive move by any means. For his part, Manoah seems to have been earnestly working through his struggles. He just hasn't been able to shake them — and the Blue Jays have been forced to make a drastic move.
While Manoah is finding himself on the mound in Florida, Bowden Francis will get a chance to see if he can help the Blue Jays' pitching staff. The 27-year-old has just one MLB appearance under his belt, but he has pitched 15 2/3 innings of 3.45 ERA ball in Triple-A this season.
Francis came to the Blue Jays in the Rowdy Tellez deal in 2021.