Blue Jays’ Alek Manoah ready to build on 2021 success

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TAMPA, Fla. – Blue Jays pitcher Alek Manoah stumbled, literally, on his first pitch against the AL East-rival Yankees in 2022.

Manoah lost his balance and fell while throwing a ball to Aaron Judge in the first inning of Toronto’s 10-9 exhibition win Saturday.

“There’s just a lot of rocks out there on that mound,” Manoah said. “Once I was able to kind of get under it a little bit, I feel like my front foot just slipped right through me.”

Last May, the 6-foot-6 right-hander cruised through six scoreless innings in his major league debut against New York. The 24-year-old went on to finish eighth in AL Rookie of the Year voting.

After his misstep Saturday, he showed signs he’s ready to build on that big rookie year. He allowed two hits, two walks and struck out three over 3 1/3 scoreless innings against a lineup that included Judge, Josh Donaldson, Joey Gallo, Giancarlo Stanton, DJ LeMahieu and Aaron Hicks.

“I just think it’s fun to come in here in their ballpark and kind of just get that in-season vibe a little bit,” Manoah said. “It’s a lot easier to stay at home in the controlled environment, but to be able to come over and face all their guys obviously is something I wanted to do.”

Taken 11th overall in the 2019 draft by the Blue Jays, Manoah was called up from Triple-A Buffalo to start against the Yankees on May 27 and gave up two hits, walked a pair and scattered two hits in a 2-0 win.

He wound up going 9-2 with a 3.22 ERA in 20 starts and was part of a surge over the final couple months of the season that saw Toronto miss the playoffs by one game.

Manoah threw 49 pitches Saturday and dropped his spring ERA to 1.69.

“Manoah was awesome,” Toronto manager Charlie Montoyo said. “He doesn’t surprise me. Against a good lineup, he did a nice job again. He used all his pitches, he was in command. He’s something to watch.”

WALKER APOLOGY

Blue Jays pitching coach Pete Walker was arrested early Friday morning on a charge of driving under the influence in Pinellas County.

Walker is with the team and addressed the matter after Saturday’s game.

“Obviously I’m very apologetic to the Blue Jay organization, the Blue Jay fans and my family,” Walker said. “But it’s something that I’m working through with my attorney to get resolution to this right now.”

Montoyo said the team is gathering information regarding the situation.

BIRD BOMB

Former Yankees first baseman Greg Bird, who signed a minor league contract with the Blue Jays, hit a three-run homer in the eighth for his second spring training shot.

“He’s competing for a job, and he’s doing what it takes to try and make the club … hitting three-run homers,” Montoyo said.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Outfielder Teoscar Hernandez (wrist) homered in his first at-bat of a minor league game and is expected to play in Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia Phillies.