Nate Pearson could finally shine for the Blue Jays pitching out of the bullpen
Photo credit:Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
7 months ago
After losing fan favourite Edwin Encarnacion to free agency the offseason prior, the Toronto Blue Jays decided to use their compensation pick on right-hander Nate Pearson, selecting the College of Central Florida product with the 28th pick in the 2017 MLB Draft.
Since his debut with the Blue Jays organization following the draft, health concerns and various ailments have followed the 6’6″ Florida product like a dark cloud, as the fiery right-hander has dealt with injuries related to his right arm, oblique, right shoulder, his lat, and a sports hernia since being drafted. In his first full professional season in 2018, Pearson started the year on the IL with an oblique injury and during his first outing with Dunedin once healthy, a comebacker up the middle struck him in the arm and broke his ulna, sidelining him for the rest of the regular season.
Injury concerns set aside, Pearson quickly became one of the Jays’ top prospects because of his fastball reaching the upper 90s, touching 100 MPH+ with ease, but also featuring devastating offspeed pitches that kept hitters on their toes. His bulky frame screamed starter material, which combined with his arsenal, had “ace” potential that had Jays fans excited for the day that Pearson would eventually be ready for the big leagues.
Nate Pearson Returns to the Blue Jays
That day came during the condensed 2020 season, where Pearson would make his MLB debut late in July against the Washington Nationals, going five innings with zero earned runs allowed with five strikeouts in his first big league starts. Three starts later, Pearson was back on the IL with elbow tightness to blame, transitioning to the bullpen near the end of the season where he was lights out for his two relief appearances, one of which came in the postseason against the Tampa Bay Rays. Over the next two seasons, Pearson would amass a combined 5.18 ERA through 33 innings.
Heading into the 2023 campaign, Pearson was trending in the right direction to secure a spot on the Blue Jays Opening Day roster. While the injury bug latched on the two prior seasons and saw him spend all of the 2022 season in the MiLB, a solid winter down in the Dominican and a spring training that saw him craft a 3.24 ERA through six relief appearances was a positive sign for the former Jays top prospect. He ultimately wouldn’t crack the roster, with Canadian Zach Pop securing the last bullpen spot, but Pearson went down to Triple-A and continued to pitch well with the Bisons.
Through eight appearances, the JUCO product amassed a 2.16 ERA through 8 1/3 innings, collecting his first save of his career while allowing just five hits and two earned runs compared to 16 strikeouts. His command was still not completely polished, as he allowed five free passes through that time, but Pearson was getting batters out and using his arsenal to continually get batters out and quickly became one of the top arms on the Bisons squad.
As the Blue Jays returned home from another road trip, The Athletic’s Kaitlyn McGrath reported that Pearson was on his way to Toronto to join the Jays, which meant the former first-round pick was heading back to the big leagues albeit in a different role than what many fans were used to seeing. With reliever Adam Cimber heading to the IL, Pearson takes over his spot in the bullpen, bringing some additional velocity to the Jays’ relief corps.
For Pearson, the right-hander is currently in his seventh professional season and is still trying to carve out a spot on the roster after the injuries have kept him sidelined for longer than many had hoped for. While this isn’t a do-or-die scenario by any means for Pearson’s career with the Jays, with the bullpen struggling early this year (combined 4.19 ERA) if Pearson can continue to pitch as he did in Buffalo, it will make for some tough decisions in roughly 15 days when Cimber is ready to come off the IL (should he be ready to go) which could benefit both him and the Blue Jays long-term.
There is obviously a lot of moving parts needed for this to happen but considering Pearson is healthy and thriving early in a somewhat new role, the ball is in his court as to whether he can find a way to stay with the Blue Jays for the foreseeable future.
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