Alek Manoah's takeaway from first spring start is more bad news for Blue Jays

In terms of setting himself up for a bounce back season after struggles in 2023, Alek Manoah, once the Blue Jays ace, didn't do so well in his first appearance in the spring

Toronto Blue Jays v Cleveland Guardians
Toronto Blue Jays v Cleveland Guardians / Lauren Leigh Bacho/GettyImages

To say Alek Manoah had a rough 2023 would be an understatement.

Even removing the context around him as a player -- how he was once the Toronto Blue Jays ace and finished third in Cy Young voting in 2022 -- in a vacuum it wasn't the best: he struggled in the bigs, was sent down to the minor leagues and struggled some more, and could never put it together as a 26-year-old still under team control until 2027, ultimately getting shut down in August. His first start in Spring Training this year didn't offer much hope of him having different results in the upcoming season.

In a start against the Detroit Tigers in spring training, a 6-4 loss, Manoah only tossed 1 2/3 innings, allowed four runs on three hits (two doubles). His struggles of control reared their ugly heads again. After walking 14.2 percent of the batters he faced in 2023, he walked one and hit three batters. If he wanted to show further development after a slide last year, this wasn't the best step forward.

Blue Jays: Are there positive takeaways from Alek Manoah's spring training debut?

There is some positive to take away, as Manoah's fastball reached 95 MPH twice, which is higher than his 2023 average of 93. Tuesday's average was in line with what he did in 2022, his All-Star campaign. And, by all accounts, he's arrived in better shape, which is something Manoah was criticized for last year. The hope now is that that trend continues, and his control gets back to the track it was before (walked 6.5 percent of batters he faced in 2022).

Manoah seemed to not think much about his rough outing.

"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.”

His veteran teammate, Chris Bassitt, seemed hopeful as well.

"So many people look at a negative season or getting kicked in the teeth as a bad thing. I think it's a great thing. How strong he is mentally, I don't think he was that strong last year."

That seems like reason enough to suspect a bounce back is coming. Or, at the very least, that the team hasn't given up on him.

They'll need all the help they can get, as they enter the fifth season of the Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette pairing and still haven't made it out of the Wild Card round.

They certainly haven't made life easy for themselves, as Guerrero Jr. and even Manoah have made comments about them being such a great team despite not living up to the hype (Manoah's were extremely troubling as he proceeded to allow four runs on four hits and only struck out four batters in 5 1/2 in a 0-4 loss to get eliminated from the 2022 postseason against the Seattle Mariners).

Toronto needs to put it together and make it far in the postseason in 2024. Manoah will have to be a big part in doing that.