Nate Pearson got the ball in Saturday’s Blue Jays vs the Blue Jays game and the organization’s No. 1 prospect picked up right where he left off back in spring training.
Pearson tossed two innings in the intrasquad game, throwing 18 of 31 pitches for strikes. He didn’t allow a hit, surrendered just one walk, and picked up two strikeouts. After the outing, he said that he felt really good on the mound and that he spent the lockdown sharpening up his off-speed stuff.
Here he is getting Vlad Jr. to ground into a double play with his curveball…
Nate Pearson was throwing all of his secondary weapons for strikes today. Got a double play from Vlad Jr. with this well-located curveball pic.twitter.com/fPM8r3p1KU
— Arden Zwelling (@ArdenZwelling) July 12, 2020
Here he is striking out Travis Shaw with some major gas…
What does 💯 MPH sound like?
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) July 11, 2020
Here he is freezing Randal Grichuk…
— Hazel Mae (@thehazelmae) July 11, 2020
And here’s an extended look at Pearson going up against Bo Bichette…
— Keegan Matheson (@KeeganMatheson) July 11, 2020
So, yeah… That was incredibly fun to watch. But, as I speculated a couple of weeks ago (and everybody who’s paying any sort of attention to this situation will surely know), Pearson isn’t going to crack the Blue Jays’ roster out of camp.
Charlie Montoyo said yesterday that the Blue Jays are planning to operate with a five-man rotation. It’ll feature veterans Hyun-Jin Ryu, Tanner Roark, Chase Anderson, and Matt Shoemaker. Trent Thornton, who led the team in innings pitched last season, is the front-runner for the fifth spot.
Also in the mix for that final spot is Ryan Borucki, who tossed three innings in Saturday’s intrasquad game. Montoyo said that Borucki was one who benefitted from the time off as it gave him time to rest his arm after seeing his injured elbow flare up again in spring training.
While there had been some thought back in spring that the Jays might pivot Borucki to the bullpen, Montoyo said that they plan to build him up as a starter. But, given how few innings there are to go around this year and how many young arms the Jays have, we could certainly still see Borucki used in a hybrid starter/ bullpen role where he’s pitching longer outings out of the ‘pen.
Anyways, back to Pearson.
Ross Atkins also said that the organization wants Pearson to start. He won’t be coming out of the ‘pen like Aaron Sanchez did in 2014 and 2015 and he also won’t be used in a hybrid relief role. So, if he isn’t a part of that five-man rotation… You can do the math. The Jays will send Pearson down to their alternate camp, which is serving as the minor leagues this year, to make some simulated starts.
As we know, this is a service time thing. Pearson only has to spend a week in the “minors” in order for the Jays to get an extra year of service time, so it won’t be long before Pearson is up with the team. Unlike with Vlad Jr. last year, the excuse won’t be that he’s working on fine details like running and fielding, it’ll be that there’s already veteran starting pitching depth in front of him that he didn’t jump over.
Eventually, one of those aforementioned five starters will get injured or a guy like Anderson will get pushed back into the bullpen and Pearson will join the Blue Jays’ rotation. There’s really no doubt that Pearson is one of Toronto’s five best starters at this point, but the service time manipulation dance is an inevitability.