Alek Manoah has made a long journey in a relatively short period of time.
It was just two years ago Manoah was leading the Mountaineer baseball program into a position where it hosted an NCAA Tournament regional. Now 722 days later he is preparing to take the mound at Yankee Stadium for his first-ever Major League appearance, as Manoah will get the start for the Toronto Blue Jays (23-23), who visit New York for a three-game series in a contest slated to begin at 7:05 p.m.
“We’re all fired up to see that, of course,” said WVU head baseball coach Randy Mazey.
Manoah’s rise through the Blue Jays’ farm system has been rapid, but it’s far from a surprise. The 11th pick of the first round of the 2019 MLB Draft, the 6-foot-6, 260-pound right-hander pitched in six games for Vancouver in short-season Class A that first summer (0-1, 2.65 ERA). Because of COVID-19, there were no minor league games in 2020, so Manoah spent his time last year with Toronto’s practice squad. Then this spring he was assigned to Class AAA Buffalo and was dominant from opening day. Prior to moving up to the Blue Jays, he was 3-0 in three starts with an ERA of 0.50 for the Bisons, gave up a total of just seven hits and one run over 18 innings while striking out 27 and walking only three.
The hot stove talk around Toronto was blazing recently that Manoah was going to be called up to the big club, and that call came Monday.
“I got a text and then a FaceTime from AK this afternoon with the good news,” said Mazey on Monday night’s “MetroNews Statewide Sportsline” of Manoah’s call up to the Majors.
Mazey guided Manoah from a talented but erratic kid coming out of Homestead, Florida, in 2016 to one who was a first-team All-American, Big 12 Pitcher of the Year and a first-round MLB Draft pick three seasons later. Now two years after that, he’s making his Major League debut against the most storied team in baseball.
“It’s kind of funny,” chuckled Mazey at the memory. “As he was coming through his college career and we were trying to mold his attitude and his competitiveness and his fire on the mound, I kept telling him, ‘AK, you can’t scream at the other team’s hitters when you’re going to pitch against the Yankees in the Big Leagues one day. You can’t strike out (Giancarlo) Stanton and tell him, ‘Go sit down!’ That’s not going to be acceptable.’
“Every time something great happens now, AK says, ‘I’m glad we had that talk.’”
Manoah’s emotions will be on display Wednesday when he faces a New York lineup that features not only Stanton but also Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres, D.J. LeMahieu and all the others in pinstripes. His Yankee adversary on the mound is slated to be Domingo German (4-2, 3.05 ERA).
It’s the Big Leagues, Yankee Stadium, The Bronx and his MLB debut, but Manoah has never been one to cave in to pressure, according to Mazey.
“That kid is not going to be in awe of the moment. That kid loves the moment,” stated WVU’s ninth-year head coach. “Better Yankee Stadium than any other stadium.
“I think he punched out seven in a row when he pitched against the Yankees in spring training,” noted Mazey. “I’d put his stuff and his mentality up against anybody right now, anybody other than John Means (another former WVU pitcher who is 4-0 with a 1.79 ERA for the Baltimore Orioles).”