Alek Manoah leaves Blue Jays game against Tigers

TORONTO — It should come as no surprise that Alek Manoah lobbied to stay in the game even after being hit in the throwing elbow by a 93 mph comeback.

The Blue Jays All-Star righthander came close to a nightmare scenario on Friday when he was forced to hand his team’s 4-2 loss to the Tigers with a right elbow bruise 87 pitches in his performance. But Manoah’s precautionary X-rays were negative and he’s unlikely to miss a start.

In fact, as he told Blue Jays coach Jose Ministral, the 24-year-old was ready to keep pitching the sixth inning at Rogers Center.

“He said, ‘Are you crazy?'” Manoah said after the game about 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’m getting back on the horse and going out again in five days.”

Manoah told reporters that his immediate reaction after applying Jonathan Schoop’s liner to the arm was more of a shock than actual pain.

He brought his left hand to his elbow and cringed, crouching next to the mound as the defense first registered the elimination. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. gestured to Secretary and Interim Manager John Schneider, who decided to bring in Tim Mayza, ending Manoah’s night in 5 1/3 innings.

“[Mayza] was up anyway and we kind of went 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’ signature move is to be careful with their stars.

Manoah’s early departure came one night when Toronto took the field without two of its biggest stars in George Springer and Bo Bichette, both of whom suffered discomfort after an impressive series opener against the Tigers. Bichette pinch-hit with two outs in the ninth, running sharply into midfield to end the game, but his absence – and Springer’s – cost a lot of money throughout the game.

The Blue Jays’ offense scored just four hits on Tigers pitchers in an outing that might as well have showcased a parade of relievers on the trade bloc – many of whom, like Michael Fulmer and Will Vest, would pass as a glove for the home team.

Although Manoah didn’t have his ‘sharpest outing’, as Schneider put it afterwards, he kept his team in the game despite the lukewarm attacking night. He struckout four Tigers batters and gave up 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 equipment was as sharp as it was, and that happens over the course of a long season. But he was good. I’m not going to put more on it. He was good. I think we expect him to be a lot of the time will dominate, but it was just one of those nights for him.”

Like several other teams this year, the Tigers provided lefthanded batters to Manoah, whose splits show that this is an area to improve. The difficult matchups coupled with inconsistent control of the two-seam and four-seam fastballs made it a rare bad night for Manoah.

He wanted to continue but respected the coaching staff’s decision to withdraw him.

“Someone’s got 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 breathed a collective sigh of relief from the negative X-rays, Manoah’s injury fears came at an intriguing moment.

Left-handed Yusei Kikuchi made a solid return from Thursday’s 15-day IL, ostensibly giving the Blue Jays some clarity on their rotation ahead of Tuesday’s trading deadline. But Friday’s scene brought back the memory of Kevin Gausman missing time after being hit in the ankle by a comebacker, coming just before coveted starter Luis Castillo reportedly packing his bags for Seattle.

There is no need to panic. But every loss, every fear of injury and every rival trade should increase the Blue Jays’ urgency to take steps.

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