The Nate Pearson Conundrum

The last time we watched a Blue Jays baseball game, Nate Pearson was dealing.

Pearson went two innings against the Pirates, scattering a couple of hits and a walk while striking out two. He also allowed an earned run, which was his first and only blemish in spring training. All told, Pearson threw seven innings, allowing one run on two hits and three walks while striking out 11.

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The Blue Jays’ No. 1 prospect was the breakout star of spring training. He was hitting 100 miles-per-hour on the gun with ease and looked like an ace. But, no matter how well he pitched, Pearson wasn’t going to crack the roster and travel north with the Blue Jays.

The organization has taken a slowly-but-surely approach with their ace of the future. After missing virtually all of the 2018 season due to a freak injury, the Blue Jays eased Pearson back in 2019, having him go back and forth between making two-inning starts and five-inning starts in the minor leagues.

The plan for 2020 appeared to be similar. Though the Jays would unleash Pearson from the five innings one time and two innings the next time pattern, they would still be operating with the building of Pearson’s stamina in mind.

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He was never going to jump out of the gates in 2020 and pitch 200 innings over the course of a full season. He was going to start off in Buffalo where the organization could ensure that he wasn’t getting overworked by having him continue to build up strength in low-stress games. Then, later in the season, he would have a chance to show what he could do at the Major League level.

I know this seems like a bunch of service time manipulation bullshit, but I’ll give the Jays the benefit of the doubt on this one.

This isn’t Vlad Jr. in which it was overwhelmingly obvious the organization was keeping him down in Triple-A where he was putting up numbers that made the competition seem like that of a beer league slow-pitch league in order to gain an extra year of control.

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This is a pitcher who has only 143 2/3 innings of work under his belt in three years since turning pro. I mean, I’m sure the service time thing was a factor in some capacity, but it wasn’t the guiding force behind putting together a take-it-slow plan with the organization’s most important pitcher.

But all of that is out the window now. There isn’t a 162-game season anymore. There isn’t a Triple-A Buffalo to take it easy and slowly build up strength. There’s a 60-game Major League Baseball season and not a hell of a lot else.

The Blue Jays will be allowed a 30-man roster to kick off the season that will eventually get widdled down to a 26-man roster after four weeks of play. Those who aren’t on the team’s active roster will wait around in some kind of extended spring training camp waiting to see if they get the call.

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So, what happens with Nate Pearson?

It’s pretty difficult to make the case that he shouldn’t crack the Blue Jays. As I said earlier, I could justify the Blue Jays’ plan for taking it slow with Pearson, having him throw in low-stress games in Buffalo in order to build up stamina rather than letting him go guns-a-blazing over the course of a standard Major League Season.

But now, with just 60 games scheduled? What reason do the Jays have for taking it slow with Pearson? Good luck arguing that Pearson is better off at the organization’s facility in Dunedin throwing simulated games in a dimly-lit room for a month than he is playing actual, competitive baseball games with the Blue Jays.

If Pearson doesn’t crack the Blue Jays’ roster, it’s a service time manipulation thing, not a take-it-slow to build stamina thing. Maybe it always was, but it would seem a lot more explicit now.

Thankfully, I guess, it’ll only take the Jays seven days to adequately manipulate Pearson’s service time. I’m just not sure how they explain to him that he needs to spend some time throwing live bullpen sessions in Dunedin for a week before he’s ready to go. I imagine that ‘we have some older guys ahead of him on the depth chart’ will be used as the excuse and Pearson will join the team once the first starter gets injured.