The Blue Jays announced today that right-hander Hagen Danner has been recalled from Triple-A. He will be making his major league debut as soon as he gets into a game. Righty Alek Manoah was optioned as the corresponding move.
Danner, 24, was both a pitcher and a catcher in high school when the Jays drafted him in 2017. They initially tried him behind the plate but he didn’t hit much in the lower levels of the minors and got moved back to the mound. In 2021, he tossed 35 2/3 innings in High-A, allowing 2.02 earned runs per nine innings. He struck out 29.4% of batters faced, walked 8.4% and got grounders at a 36.3% rate.
With his early attempts at catching and the canceled minor leagues in 2020, that was the totality of his professional pitching experience in November of 2021. Nonetheless, the Jays were clearly intrigued, as they added Danner to their 40-man roster to prevent him from being selected in the Rule 5 draft.
Last season, the righty spent much of the time on the minor league injured list, only throwing 3 2/3 innings for the year. Here in 2023, he’s thrown 39 1/3 innings across three different levels with a 3.66 ERA. He’s struck out 35.7% of batters he’s faced while walking just 7%. The long ball has been a bit of an issue, however, with eight balls having gone over the fence so far this year. But his 26.7% rate of fly balls turning into home runs is more than double the major league average and unlikely to be sustained.
As for Manoah, this is the second time this year that he’s been sent on optional assignment. The first came in June after he struggled mightily in the first couple of months in the season, with a 6.36 ERA at that time. He was recalled about a month later and has been a bit better, with a 4.91 ERA since coming back up. His 23.3% strikeout rate in that time is close to average but his 12.8% walk rate is a few ticks on the high side.
The Jays have been running a six-man rotation recently, thanks to the return of Manoah as well as Hyun Jin Ryu returning from his Tommy John surgery rehab, joining Kevin Gausman, José Berríos, Chris Bassitt and Yusei Kikuchi. That arrangement has been fine for a while as they are currently in a stretch of playing 17 days in a row, but that will end after this weekend. Starting on Monday, the Jays have three off-days in an eight-day period, making the six starters unnecessary.
It seems Manoah will be the odd man out for now, as he’ll head to Triple-A Buffalo and await his next opportunity. An injury to one of the club’s other starters could open a spot for him, or perhaps the expanded September rosters will get him back aboard.