TORONTO — It should come as no surprise that Alek Manoah lobbied to stay in the game even after getting hit in the throwing elbow by a 93 mph comebacker.
The Blue Jays’ All-Star right-hander came close to a nightmare scenario on Friday, when he was forced to leave his team’s 4-2 loss to the Tigers with a right-elbow contusion 87 pitches into his outing. But Manoah’s precautionary X-rays came back negative, and it’s unlikely he will have to miss a start.
In fact, as he told Blue Jays trainer Jose Ministral, the 24-year-old was ready to keep pitching the sixth inning at Rogers Centre.
“He said, ‘Are you crazy?’” Manoah said, after the game, of his interaction with Ministral. “ … Honestly, I didn’t even think I needed the X-ray, but they wanted to do it [as a precaution]. Everything was negative, everything is clean, so I’ll get back on the horse and get back out there in five days.”
Manoah told reporters that his immediate reaction after taking Jonathan Schoop’s liner to the arm was born of shock more so than actual pain.
He brought his left hand to his elbow and winced, crouching beside the mound as the defense recorded the putout at first. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. gestured for Ministral and interim manager John Schneider, who decided to bring in Tim Mayza, ending Manoah’s night at 5 1/3 innings.
“[Mayza] was up anyway and we were kind of headed in that direction,” Schneider said of his decision to pull Manoah. “He’s competitive as hell and he wanted to stay in, but it was a pretty easy decision to get him out just to be safe.”
The Blue Jays’ trademark move is to exercise caution with their stars.
Manoah’s early exit came on an evening when Toronto took the field without two of its biggest stars in George Springer and Bo Bichette, both dealing with discomfort after a high-impact series opener against the Tigers. Bichette did pinch-hit with two outs in the ninth, lining out sharply to center field to end the game, but his absence — and that of Springer — was costly through the game.
The Blue Jays’ offense mustered just four hits off Tigers pitchers in an outing that may as well have been a showcase of a parade of relievers on the trade block — many of whom, such as Michael Fulmer and Will Vest, would fit like a glove for the home team.
Though Manoah didn’t have his “sharpest outing,” as Schneider put it afterwards, he kept his team in the game despite the lukewarm offensive night. He struck out four Tigers batters and allowed four earned runs, including a solo shot to Willi Castro.
“We hold him to a pretty high standard,” said Schneider. “I don’t think his stuff was quite as crisp as it has been, and that happens over the course of a long season. But he was good. I’m not going to put anything more than that. He was good. I think we expect him to dominate a lot of the time, but it was kind of just one of those nights for him.”
Like several other teams this year, the Tigers loaded up on left-handed batters against Manoah, whose splits show this is an area to improve upon. The tough matchups paired with inconsistent command of the two-seam and four-seam fastballs made it a rare off night for Manoah.
He wanted to keep going, but respected the coaching staff’s decision to pull him.
“Someone has to be the smart one, you know,” Manoah joked. “It was the right time to get me out, and the bullpen did a great job.”
While the organization let out a collective sigh of relief at the negative X-rays, Manoah’s injury scare came at an intriguing moment.
Left-hander Yusei Kikuchi made a solid return from the 15-day IL on Thursday, which ostensibly gave the Blue Jays some clarity around their rotation ahead of Tuesday’s Trade Deadline. But Friday’s scene brought back the memory of Kevin Gausman missing time after being hit in the ankle by a comebacker, and came just moments before coveted starter Luis Castillo reportedly packed his bags for Seattle.
There’s no need to panic. But every loss, injury scare and rival transaction should intensify the Blue Jays’ urgency to make moves.