Alek Manoah handles tougher spring training challenges as Blue Jays season approaches

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TAMPA — Different pitches for different pitchers have been the Blue Jays’ approach to setting up their starting rotation for the season.

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Some guys prefer to do their job quietly at the player development complex. Others are cool with a minor league game. And some prefer to keep it within the friendly confines of the Jays’ home, TD Ballpark.

Not the beastly competitor that is Alek Manoah, though.

The Jays’ sophomore starter wants to venture into hostile territory — as is the case in Grapefruit League play — and stoke his competitive fire.

So damn direct that Manoah wanted the ball for a Saturday afternoon start against the AL East rival New York Yankees at George Steinbrenner Field.

The crowd of 8,038 for a 10-9 win was probably the biggest the Jays will face this spring, and it came in an environment in which Manoah thrives.

“I think it’s fun to come here to their ballpark and get a little bit of that season vibe,” Manoah said after pitching the fourth inning and hitting a pitch count of 49. It’s a lot easier to stay home in a controlled environment, but being able to come here and face all the guys (the Yankees) is something I wanted to do.
It was also a relatively solid Yankees lineup, with the big bats of Josh Donaldson, Aaron Judge, Joey Gallo and Giancarlo Stanton all in manager Aaron Boone’s batting order.

“A lot of guys might not want to play (the Yankees), but he wanted to go,” Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said. “He could have pitched in a minor league game, but he wanted to pitch here. He deserved a lot of credit for that.

Other than a few early rides, Manoah was happy with one outing – his second of the spring.

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“The plan was to go attack the strike zone, set a precedent with the lead,” Manoah said. “It felt good. There are still some inconsistencies with the two walks, but I feel like I was able to throw around the area pretty well today.

Getting through four innings is an important prep threshold for a starter, and with the likelihood of two more starts remaining, Manoah believes he’s on track for a start to the opening weekend against Texas. Rangers.

“As usual, go out there and attack,” Manoah said of his state of mind. “Every time I go out that’s what I want to do and then we’re ready (to be) in attack mode once the season starts.”

Manoah now has a 1.69 ERA in his two spring starts, going 3.1 scoreless innings, allowing two hits and a pair of walks while striking out three.
“I’m just trying to work day by day and get better,” Manoah said. “I feel good.”

Meanwhile, things went considerably less smoothly for the Jays’ second “starter” of the day, Nate Pearson. The hard-throwing right-hander worked 2.1 innings, allowing three hits and three earned runs, including a homer to Gallo.

“He didn’t have a good outing,” Montoyo said. “I’m not going to say (it’s a step back), just an outing, but he wasn’t as good today.”

QUICK TAPIA

Newly acquired outfielder Raimel Tapia arrived from Arizona and was ready to work Saturday.

And the man acquired from the Colorado Rockies for Randal Grichuk says he’s looking forward to using some of that speed.

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“It’s a big part of my game,” Tapia said through an interpreter. “For example, if I’m on first base and someone hits the ball into space, I can score and that could put the team in a winning situation.

“It’s one of my best assets and I’m going to use it a lot.”

Tapia is willing and able to play all three outfield positions, but noted that he prefers center. He’s likely to see his first game on Sunday when the Jays take on the Phillies at TD Ballpark.

AROUND THE BASES

Teoscar Hernandez resumes his activities after treating a slight wrist ailment. Hernandez hit a home run in a minor league game on Saturday and should be in the lineup shortly … The Jays homered in the main game off ex-Yankee Greg Bird with his second of the spring, and Cavan Biggio with his first … Yusei Kikuchi will get his second start of the spring in Sunday’s date at TD Ballpark with the Phillies. For Monday’s road game against Atlanta, Montoyo will go with a bullpen day while Jose Berrios will pitch in a minor league game in Dunedin.

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