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Blue Jays’ Alek Manoah gives up 11 runs in first rookie ball start since demotion

The former ace, who was sent down to Toronto’s spring training complex to rework his mechanics after a dismal start to 2023, lasted just 2.2 innings in his return to the mound.

Alek Manoah of Toronto Blue Jays reacts while pitching against the Houston Astros during the first inning in their MLB game at the Rogers Centre on June 5, 2023 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images

It had been near radio silence on Alek Manoah since the Toronto Blue Jays optioned their struggling ace down to the Minors in early June. We knew that the righty had been sent to the team’s Spring Training complex in Florida, where the plan was to have him throw in front of coaches and staff in attempt to rebuild his confidence and mechanics after a dismal start to 2023. But there hadn’t heard much of any news since — until Tuesday, that is.

Manoah made his return to game action against the New York Yankees’ rookie ball team, and the results ... were not great.

The righty allowed a whopping 11 runs on 10 hits (two homers) and two walks while striking out three in just 2.2 innings of work — obviously not the results he or the team were hoping for. Of course, caveats apply: Manoah is in the midst of revamping his mechanics and adjusting his arsenal, so it’s possible that he was focused on something other than his stat line, be it fastball command or a new breaking ball.

Still, this is the rookie-level Florida Complex League we’re talking about, just about the lowest level of professional ball that exists — both of the guys Manoah gave up dingers to were born in 2004. You’d like to think that someone who was in Cy Young consideration just a year ago would be able to get outs regardless of the circumstances. And for whatever it’s worth, the team reportedly isn’t thrilled either.

Manoah was one of the best starters in the American League last season, finishing the year with a 2.24 ERA and third in AL Cy Young Award voting. Some regression was expected coming into 2023 — Manoah has never put up eye-popping strikeout numbers, and he got a bit lucky on balls in play last season — but no one could’ve seen this collapse coming. The 25-year-old was demoted after posting a 6.36 ERA in 58 innings across his first 13 starts, the last of which came on June 5, when he surrendered six runs on seven hits and a walk while recording just a single out against the Houston Astros.

The Blue Jays enter play on Tuesday with a half-game edge over those same Astros for the third and final AL Wild Card spot, but it’s been a frustratingly inconsistent season for a team that many pegged as inner-circle World Series contenders in the spring. The emergence of Yusei Kikuchi and Jose Berrios has been a huge boon, but Manoah’s absence still leaves a a big hole in Toronto’s rotation behind ace Kevin Gausman.