National Post (Latest Edition)

Jays pitcher expands his Arsenal

Manoah learning there’s More to Being a Big-leaguer than overwhelmi­ng hitters

- Frank Zicarelli

Alek Manoah can’t hide his excitement of being around big-league arms amid a bigleague atmosphere, which seems quite fitting for the big guy.

There’s none of the over-the-top hype surroundin­g Manoah compared to Nate Pearson and his profile probably isn’t as big, but Manoah, 23, is nonetheles­s part of the Toronto blue Jays’ stable of young arms.

during a Zoom call Sunday with reporters, the 6-foot-6 Manoah said he feels blessed to be in dunedin, Fla., and grateful for the shot to continue a career that has seen a few twists and turns along the way.

Manoah was at the team’s alternate site in rochester, N.y. last season when he competed against a few big-league bats.

Competitio­n fuels Manoah, who believes the key to his mound approach is to stay within himself.

“I trust myself, I trust my abilities, I trust my work ethic,’’ said Manoah. “Going up against really good hitters is fun. Those guys know how to take those sliders in the dirt, extend those at-bats.”

As he continues to evolve, Manoah can look back at his time in Vancouver pitching for the Canadians, when he would overwhelm hitters with his patented heater before resorting to his lethal slider to put them away.

however, it’s Manoah’s expanding arsenal that really hits home.

“Now I’m able to throw a 3-2 change-up to a righty, throw changeups in a 1-1 count, 1-2 count and I’m able to throw different variations of the slider, fastballs in different locations,’’ said the righty.

“I think that aspect of experience and knowledge, the more you play, the more advanced hitters you face, you get little tweaks here and there. everyone at this level can hit a 98-mile-an-hour fastball. Just being able to mix everything is what separates me now.”

Just being around big-leaguers at the alternate site allowed Manoah to realize he didn’t have to be too perfect with every pitch.

“being this big, you have to get all the limbs together at the right time to shoot at the right time,’’ said Manoah, a self-confessed visual guy. “Sometimes the arm can be a little off, the hip, the body might be off a little bit. It’s just about watching a lot of video.”

Pitching out of the stretch has become Manoah’s identity.

“As hitters, they can have whatever stance they want, but you still have to get to that power position. As a pitcher, it’s the same thing. you can have a crazy windup, move your hands all over the place, do whatever you want. At the end of the day, you still have to get that foot on the ground and that arm up.

“For me it’s being able to simplify it. I can still get into that power position (from the stretch) a lot better now. That was a huge transition for me.”

by incorporat­ing video into his day-to-day routine, Manoah was able to learn more about grip when using his change-up and get a better feel on when to use that pitch and how to adjust between pitches.

“In college I had a good changeup, but being able to adjust pitch to pitch, I wasn’t there yet. I think now having that grip, understand­ing when I’m throwing it, when it’s going to be good, when it’s going to be best for me. I know what makes it good and the staff here has been really good in giving me all the resources.”

SHOT IN THE ARM

right-hander Trent Thornton saw his season cut short following his third start in 2020, when he experience­d elbow discomfort.

There appears to be no lingering issues with Thornton, who is scheduled for a live bullpen session Monday, according to pitching coach Pete Walker.

“he feels really good,’’ said Walker. “he definitely feels a lot better than he did last year, which is great.”

CATCHER HAS A CHANCE

Alejandro Kirk made quite the impression during his frenetic run as a big-league rookie catcher.

GM ross Atkins said last week that the 22-year-old has a chance to make the opening-day roster.

Nutrition, working on his body, Kirk put in plenty of work when he returned to his home in Mexico.

There were days when he’d focus on his game behind the plate and at the plate, but the primary goal during the off-season was on his weight and conditioni­ng.

“I don’t know how much weight I’ve lost,’’ said Kirk through an interprete­r. “but I’ve lost a lot. The bottom line is that I feel great.”

 ?? TORONTO blue JAYS ?? Pitcher Alek Manoah says he has learned a lot since being drafted by
the Blue Jays and is ready to take on a heavy workload.
TORONTO blue JAYS Pitcher Alek Manoah says he has learned a lot since being drafted by the Blue Jays and is ready to take on a heavy workload.

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