Pearson return gives Blue Jays valuable option for reliever box at crucial time


The last time Nate Pearson threw a short-stint maximum effort outing was two years ago in November during the Arizona Fall League All-Star Game. Then 22 and trying to make up for lost development time – a comeback fractured Pearson’s pitcher’s ulna in the second set of his first start in 2018, sidelining him for the remainder of the season – Pearson did not retain anything. He got the first hitter he faced to roll on a 101 mph fastball. He hit the next one with 103.

The third batter in the inning was Pete Alonso, then one of the New York Mets’ top 50 prospects at the dawn of the majors. Pearson rose even more for Alonso, hitting 103 with his first pitch, a swinging strike and 104 with his next. The fact that Alonso pushed Pearson all the way on that water heater tells you something about why he continued to lead the MLB with 53 homers in 2019. And that tells you something else about what we could see of Pearson who was relieving the Toronto Blue Jays next week. .

That’s the role Pearson will adopt after being activated Thursday from the injured list, where he had been residing since mid-August due to tightness in his elbow. With just four games to play in Toronto’s season and a three-game wildcard streak set to begin on Tuesday, there simply wasn’t enough time to replenish Pearson as a starter after his injury. Instead, he’ll play an equally critical, and certainly more fascinating, role in the Toronto reliever box.

“Everything has evolved in the right direction. The speed is there. He feels really good. He’s recovering well, ”Blue Jays pitching coach Pete Walker said earlier this week before Pearson launched the final live BP of his rehabilitation process. “I think in a backup role out of the feather, one inning, two innings, we could use that speed and his ability to throw strikes.

With closest holder Ken Giles lost to Tommy John’s surgery, Jordan Romano escape lever weapon returning from finger fatigue and versatile pitcher Julian Merryweather sidelined with tendonitis elbow, the Blue Jays can only benefit from Pearson’s ability to ignite. the radar gun. He immediately becomes the toughest gun manager Charlie Montoyo will have at his disposal, even though he’s just sitting at 98-99 mph after an injury instead of approaching 105 like he was two years ago. in Arizona.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean Pearson will play a late role. He certainly could. But the Blue Jays can also choose to use it in a similar fashion to other convert debutants Thomas Hatch, Anthony Kay and Ryan Borucki, taking over mid-innings and trying to get three to six outs. The Blue Jays also aren’t ruling out the possibility of using Pearson as an opener, although that’s less likely than the previous two options.

“He’s never done it before. So we’ll see how he is, ”Montoyo said ahead of Thursday’s game. “But I know the other guys who have made this move this year – the Hatch, Kay and Borucki – have done a great job. So I see Pearson doing the same. But let’s see how he does it and see how long it takes him to warm up and all because he’s never done it before.

Lack of awareness of the role – Pearson hasn’t worked in relief since college – is one reason he will have a relatively mild entry point for his first bullpen outing this week. Montoyo plans to give Pearson a clean frame, and as much as an inning of notice before entering the game, so he can stick as closely to the warm-up routine he would use as a starter.

It is important. Pearson is one of the most meticulous and routine pitchers in the Toronto organization, using data collected with wearable technology to manage his workload between outings and diligently follow a personalized arm care routine that ‘he has been developing since university. Everything is designed to keep him as strong and healthy as possible while throwing 90-100 throws every five to six days.

But now he could throw 20-30 pitches every two to three days. This will put unique stress on an arm that has been carefully conditioned for a different degree of stimulation. Working with Pearson to make sure he’s as recovered and comfortable as possible, especially after an injury, is key.

The Blue Jays can’t – and won’t – lose sight of how important Pearson is to the future of the organization. He’s the franchise’s best prospect for a reason and he’s expected to take on a workhorse and rotational lead role for years to come, assuming his development continues along the way. that he has taken so far. The option of piloting Pearson’s big man in an unexpected post-2020 opportunity will be tempting – but it shouldn’t come at the expense of his efficiency and durability when he returns to the starter role in 2021.

So, will you see Pearson playing on two consecutive days? Unlikely. Will you see him stretching too far beyond 30 lengths in one ride? Probably not. If the Blue Jays embark on a deep postseason run and Pearson feels more comfortable with his temporary role, those circumstances could change. But over the next week or so, the Blue Jays will be choosing their spot carefully on Pearson’s deployment, trying to make the most of his high-impact arm at a time of year when the leverage floor is continually rising.

That doesn’t make it any less intriguing. Pearson averaged 96 mph with his fastball as a starter earlier this season, hitting 100 at a time. Velocity tends to play around in the reading pen, as converted starters bypass gas tank management in favor of throwing the nastier stuff and most peak effort in short stints. We saw Pearson up to 104 in similar circumstances two years ago. Can we see him again? Can we see even more? We’re about to find out.


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