Alek Manoah's first spring training start couldn't have gone worse for Blue Jays

Alek Manoah showed up to MLB spring training looking thin and ready for a bounce back from a dreadful 2023 season. Unfortunately, that hasn't gone according to plan.

San Diego Padres v Toronto Blue Jays
San Diego Padres v Toronto Blue Jays / Vaughn Ridley/GettyImages

Alek Manoah said all the right things this offseason about turning the page from a miserable 2023 season in which he was sent to Triple-A twice. The former Cy Young candidate's lack of control was evident from the first pitch he threw last April.

Despite all of this, the Blue Jays and John Schneider maintain that Manoah is a critical part of their rotation plan for this coming season. If he can return to form -- or even some relevancy among the AL's elite starting pitchers -- Toronto will have one of the better rotations in MLB. If not, the Jays will have a hole in their rotation.

MLB spring training should be taken at face value. Stats don't necessarily matter, but building confidence is as important as ever for a pitcher like Manoah, who is rounding into form once again this spring. His first start did not go according to plan.

Manoah hit three Tigers batters and was taken out following a Spencer Torkelson double which plated a few runs for Detroit. To make matters worse, the Tigers arguably had the worst lineup in baseball last season.

Alek Manoah's first spring training start spurs panic among Blue Jays fans

Again, spring training is just that. As players rev up for Opening Day, there are bound to be some bumps along the way. Perhaps Manoah can learn from his unsuccessful approach against the Tigers on Tuesday. He ought to start by throwing pitches in the strike zone.

The two doubles Manoah gave up -- one to Torkelson and another to Colt Keith -- both had an exit velocity of at least 105 MPH. These weren't bloop extra-base hits, they were screamers off the bat.

It's natural for fans and media alike to overreact to spring training starts. I'm likely feeding into that right now. Manoah was able to take some positives from the experience.

“You definitely want to have starts where everything doesn’t feel the best now, instead of when it matters. Some of that inexpensive experience,” Manoah said. “I’m just continuing to attack each day. I’m separating each day from itself and attacking the goals I have each day. That’s a good way, without really thinking about it, for me to separate the results from the work.”

The good news is that Manoah seems to be in the right headspace. The bad news is he can't find the strike zone.