Pearson’s first pitch of the night, a called knee kick for Austin Hays of the Baltimore Orioles, was timed at 100.1 mph, his second pitch was a slider that abruptly snapped as he approached home plate and induced a swing and a miss for the second shot. And even though his third pitch was way over the top of the strike zone, he was going 101.5 mph. Hays swung and missed again.
With that one at bat, Pearson allayed some of the concerns about elbow strain that had sidelined him since Aug. 18 and renewed his optimism about what he can offer the Blue Jays in the playoffs. . His comeback has been one of the many bright spots for a team that suddenly have the luxury of prioritizing next week’s wild card over immediate results. Of course, it never hurts to win either, and the Blue Jays did it with ease on Friday, beating the Orioles 10-5 in Game 1 of their final series of the season at Sahlen Field.
The offense has continued to come for the Blue Jays, who have secured homers from Randal Grichuk and Travis Shaw, but most of the intrigue exists on the pitching staff as the season winds down. Ahead of the game, general manager Ross Atkins said the Blue Jays were considering “alternative strategies” as they prepare to pitch for next week’s three-game playoff series.
“As you’ve seen over the year, we haven’t taken the more traditional approach,” Atkins said. “We will continue to be open-minded.”
At this point, nothing has been finalized, not even the start of the first game for Hyun Jin Ryu. And with that in mind, Taijuan Walker’s intentionally shortened three-innings appearance in his final start to the season is of particular interest. Walker struck out all nine batters he faced while suppressing five of 42 shots.
It was an impressive outing, and one that could theoretically open up the possibility of a first game start on Tuesday. If nothing else, it served his purpose of allowing Walker to work without overworking himself.
“I felt really good,” Walker said. “I thought everything was good and clean. I was throwing strikes which is the # 1 goal every time I go.
But after throwing a record 100 shots in the Blue Jays’ decisive victory, Ryu was “a little sore” on Friday, according to manager Charlie Montoyo. With that in mind, it’s possible the Blue Jays will be looking to give him an extra day off before his first playoff start.
In theory, the Blue Jays could move Ryu to Game 2 and use a combination of Walker and Robbie Ray in Game 1 (Ryu excelled on four and five days off, although his withdrawal to walk was better with a day off. additional recovery.). Of course, this is only one possibility among many, and none of this needs to be finalized yet. At this point, the Blue Jays can just wait to find out about their opponent while making different paths ahead and asking the pitchers themselves how they feel.
“We think we don’t have the five starting prototypes that some teams have, but we have some really interesting options that we want to make sure we think about and exhaust all the potential angles,” Atkins said.
Pearson’s return certainly opens up options for the Blue Jays, although he will be limited to relatively short stints from then on. He averaged 99 mph on his 24-pitch outing on Friday, hitting two batters while still allowing for a hit and a 1.2 inning walk. If he can replicate that in the postseason, the Blue Jays will be delighted.
“He’s a big boy. A very tall boy, ”said Walker, who is rated at six foot four, 235 pounds. himself. “I’m delighted to watch him for us in the postseason. It’s going to be one of those guns that I think no one really knows about. He’s going to come in and fire the radar gun and get some big outs.
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Beyond the radar gun, Pearson also passed other tests that go along with his new role. He warmed up in the bullpen during the game, rather than before. And his night lasted two innings to prepare him for a multi-innings role in the playoffs.
“It was amazing,” Pearson said. “It was really nice to be back to myself there.”
The bullpen could soon get another arm of power as Jordan Romano “looked really good” in a bullpen session Friday, according to Montoyo. An appearance in Sunday’s season finale remains a possibility, or the Blue Jays could simply add Romano to the postseason roster without using him in a game first.
As for the rotation, Matt Shoemaker will look to build on a solid return from the injured list on Saturday and Tanner Roark will pitch on Sunday. An extended outing for Roark in the season finale would presumably knock him off the wildcard list, allowing the Blue Jays to make room for another player (Atkins expects a bigger bench in the wildcard round , and 13-15 pitchers).
In the meantime, the wheels keep turning for Blue Jays makers. At some point soon, it will be time to make some final calls on how they structure their pitching team in the playoffs. So far, all that’s clear is that they still have one impact arm to work with following Pearson’s impressive comeback.