Blue Jays right-hander Alek Manoah hits 3 batters in first spring training start

Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Alek Manoah warms up at baseball spring training in Dunedin, Fla., Tuesday Feb. 20, 2024. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)
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It was a mixed bag for Toronto Blue Jays right-hander Alek Manoah in his first start of spring training.

Manoah hit three batters and threw just 17 of 38 pitches for strikes while working 1 2/3 innings of four-run ball during Tuesday's 6-4 loss to the Detroit Tigers. But he also showed improved velocity, reaching the mid-90s with his fastball.

“You want to have starts where everything doesn’t feel the best now, instead of having it when it matters. Some of that inexpensive experience,” Manoah told reporters in Lakeland, Florida. “I’m just continuing to attack every day, continuing to separate each day from itself and attacking the goals that I have to attack that day."

Manoah was a breakout star for Toronto in 2022, going 16-7 with a 2.24 ERA in 31 starts. He made the AL All-Star team and finished third in AL Cy Young Award voting.

But he struggled last year, going 3-9 with a 5.87 ERA in 19 starts. He was optioned to the minors twice.

Manoah felt good about his velocity against the Tigers.

“I’m not having to think velocity and kind of just feeling that natural flow, and then being able to have pretty good velocity,” he said. “For me, that’s kind of a really good checkpoint. ... That’s a pretty good box to check this early. But, at the same time, not chasing velo, just chasing easier velo, so it was good to kind of be in the mid-90s today naturally.”

Casey Mize pitched 1 2/3 innings for Detroit, continuing his comeback from Tommy John surgery in June 2022 and a subsequent back operation. The right-hander was charged with two runs and one hit.

Mize, 26, was selected by the Tigers with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 amateur draft. He hasn't appeared in a regular-season game in the majors since April 14, 2022.

FIRST TIME OUT

Atlanta Braves left-hander Chris Sale and St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Sonny Gray pitched in their first spring training games with their new teams.

Sale struck out four in two perfect innings against Pittsburgh in Bradenton, Florida. He threw 16 of his 25 pitches for strikes.

The 34-year-old Sale was acquired in a December trade with Boston. He then agreed to a $38 million, two-year contract with Atlanta.

Gray surrendered two hits in two scoreless innings against the Red Sox in Jupiter, Florida. He walked two and struck out two while throwing 23 of his 40 pitches for strikes.

“Physically I felt good. The ball was jumping out of my hand,” Gray told reporters. “I was just fighting myself a little bit more than I will as we go into this thing. But I mean, I'll clean that up.”

Gray, 34, went 8-8 with a 2.79 ERA in 32 starts for Minnesota last year, helping the Twins win the AL Central. He agreed to a $75 million, three-year contract with St. Louis as a free agent.

“I wasn't as sharp and as clean as I would have liked to have been, but it was fun to get out there,” he said. “It was fun to put on the uniform.”

FEELING GOOD

Chicago Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks is feeling good. It's a welcome change after he missed the start of last season as part of his recovery from a shoulder injury.

“It’s just fun to be out there again,” he said.

Hendricks pitched two innings in a Cactus League game against Cincinnati on Tuesday. The right-hander gave up one hit — a triple by Will Benson, who scored on Nick Martini’s sacrifice fly. He walked one, struck out one and hit a batter.

The 34-year-old Hendricks, who won the World Series with the Cubs in 2016, went 6-8 last season with a 3.74 ERA in 24 starts.

“It feels amazing,” Hendricks said. “Just to be in my routine, to be on my five day. It’s what I love to do. It stunk last year. It stinks sitting around. I just want to be one of the guys.”

WORKING HIS WAY BACK

Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Walker Buehler faced batters during his throwing session on Tuesday. The right-hander is coming back from his second Tommy John surgery in August 2022.

Buehler, a two-time All-Star who turns 30 in July, is 46-16 with a 3.02 ERA in 115 career games, including 106 starts.

INJURED

Royals left-hander Christian Chamberlain tore a ligament in his elbow during the ninth inning of a spring training game Saturday, and one of Kansas City's top prospects appears headed for Tommy John surgery.

Kansas City manager Matt Quatraro said the club is still discussing the next steps for Chamberlain, a fourth-round pick in the 2020 amateur draft.

The former Oregon State standout was in his first big league camp as a non-roster invitee after shooting through Double-A and Triple-A last season.

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AP Baseball Writer David Brandt, AP Sports Writer Dave Skretta and AP freelance writer Jack Thompson contributed to this report.

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AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb