We finally know what’s been up with Big Nate.
The Blue Jays’ No. 1 prospect has been on the shelf since mid-June with what was described at the time as another groin injury. Today, general manager Ross Atkins said that Pearson has been dealing with a sports hernia and the plan is for him to start throwing from the mound next week.
Given where we’re at in the season, there isn’t much time to get Pearson built up, so the team is going to use him as a reliever the rest of the way. I imagine this also partially has to do with the fact the team still desperately needs bullpen help and it’s much, much, muuuuuuuch more likely Pearson can help them there than as a starter.
We saw Pearson pitch out of the ‘pen a couple of times last season. He did so once in late September against Baltimore, in which he tossed one-and-two-thirds innings while picking up two strikeouts, and we saw him again in Game 2 of the wild-card series with Tampa, where he threw a dominant pair of innings with five strikeouts.
Pearson could be a game-changer for Toronto’s bullpen. If you have a guy who can throw 100 miles-per-hour consistently coming out in relief who can also throw multiple innings, suddenly, games feel quite a bit shorter. We could see Pearson come into games in a variety of situations, maybe for an inning in a high leverage spot late in the game or to deal with a mess left by a starter and provide some distance in the middle of the game.
Let’s hope this is a role in which Pearson can thrive. It’s been a tough year for the guy most of us assumed would be the team’s No. 2 starter this season.
Now, that being said, even if Pearson is amazing as a reliever, let’s also hope the door isn’t closed on him as a starter. Aaron Sachez was huge for the Blue Jays out of the ‘pen in 2015 when he came back from his injury. But you know what was even better? When Aaron Sanchez led the American League in ERA as a starter in 2016. This season has made it a bit more difficult to see Pearson becoming the ace we all thought he would, but the upside is most certainly still there.