Off-Day Stuff: Nate Pearson’s difficult debut, Atlanta signs Tanner Roark, and more!
Photo credit:© Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
By Cam Lewis2 years ago
The Blue Jays are off today after dropping two out of three in Houston to the Astros. All told, they’re at three wins and four losses on their 10-game road trip. Next up, they’ll head to Atlanta to face the Braves, a team they swept just a couple of weeks ago in Dunedin. Before looking back at what happened in Houston, let’s take a look at what’s going on in Atlanta…
Like the Blue Jays, the Braves are dealing with a handful of different injuries. Travis d’Arnaud was injured in the Blue Jays series and has since been placed on the 60-day Injured List, Mike Soroka still isn’t back from the freak Achilles injury he suffered last season, and other names like Ender Enciarte, Guillermo Heredia, and Chris Martin are on the shelf.
Atlanta also dodged a bullet as Ronald Acuna Jr. got drilled in the hand by a 98-mile-per-hour fastball. As of right now, it doesn’t appear as though Acuna will be headed to the Injured List.
The challenge for the Braves this season, surprisingly enough, has been their starting pitching. Only six teams are allowing more runs than Atlanta this season (5.03 per game) and their starting rotation ranks 23rd in baseball with a -0.5 WAR according to Baseball-Reference.
Only Huascar Ynao and Ian Anderson have been consistently good for the Braves this season. Old Man Charlie Morton has been up and down, Drew Smyly has been getting lit up, and Max Fried, last year’s ace, owns an 8.44 ERA. Soroka won’t be back until June so the Braves have looked outside of the organization for some pitching help…
That’s right. The Diesen Engine is still chugging!
After clearing through waivers and getting released by the Blue Jays, Tanner Roark has inked a minor-league deal with the Braves. Let’s hope that Atlanta is ready to call him up this week!
The Braves are starting Fried (who the Blue Jays haven’t seen yet) and Morton (who the Blue Jays beat a couple of weeks ago). Atlanta hasn’t yet announced their starter for Monday, so… Maybe? MAYBE?!?!?! Please!
Anyways, let’s circle back to the Houston series. First up, we have Nate Pearson’s difficult debut.
The Blue Jays called up Pearson ahead of Sunday’s game in order to fill a vacant spot in the rotation. We had all been eyeing Sunday as the natural return date after Pearson kicked off Triple-A Buffalo’s season last Tuesday and we were all thrilled when it was announced. Nobody, of course, was thrilled with what happened, though.
Pearson has an OK first inning, issuing a walk to Michael Brantley and a single to Yordan Alvarez, who are both very good hitters, but got through unscathed. In the second, Pearson totally lost control, issuing back-to-back walks to lead things off. He then got back-to-back flyball outs, but then allowed a single and another walk. He managed to get Alex Bregman to pop out to limit the damage, but it was clear Pearson didn’t have it. He came out again for the third inning and got Alvarez to fly out, but he then walked Yuli Gurriel and allowed a triple to Kyle Tucker and a single to Robel Garcia.
That was the end of the line for Pearson. All told: five outs, four hits, five walks, three earned runs, 64 pitches, 28 strikes, one whiff. Not what you want to see.
Ricky Romero, a guy who knows all about the difficulty of dealing with the mental aspect of the game on the mound, made an interesting point about Pearson during his start, stating that the big righty was in his own head and working too hard…
So, what now? Is Pearson ready for the big leagues?
It’s a difficult situation. His command issues a conundrum because it isn’t something he ever really dealt with in the minors. In 2019, between Dunedin, New Hampshire, and Buffalo, Pearson tossed 101 2/3 innings and walked 27 batters while striking out 119. It obviously isn’t a massive body of minor-league work, but this isn’t Aaron Sanchez or Kyle Drabek who had been walking guys all the way up the ladder.
In his one start in Buffalo this year, Pearson tossed three-and-two-thirds and allowed just one walk while striking out eight. While there’s some merit to the idea that he needs time in Triple-A to work on his mechanics, he isn’t going to learn much by facing hitters that he can completely overmatch. It seems like this is a challenge that Pearson and the Blue Jays are going to have to tackle at the big league level.
I mean, hey, if Pete Walker can get Robbie Ray to throw strikes, surely he can do the same with Pearson, right?
Also, another thing to consider… The Blue Jays aren’t exactly flushed with options to start games right now. There are the main three guys, Hyun Jin Ryu, Steven Matz, and Robbie Ray, who have been largely excellent, but there exist two big question-marks in the remaining spots right now.
Ross Stripling has been pretty bad thus far as he owns a 6.61 ERA through four starts. He’s only been able to clear five innings once. Anthony Kay was the victim of poor defence in his debut against Kansas City but then got tagged in his next outing a few weeks later in Oakland. All told, Kay has a 10.24 ERA.
Beyond that? There’s T.J. Zeuch in Triple-A who can log some innings in which he doesn’t strike anybody out and you hope for the best. Trent Thornton has been very good in a relief role this year but isn’t stretched out to start. On the Injured List is Tommy Milone, who has sort of lost his shine after a few effective outings, and Tom Hatch, who was excellent last season as a multi-inning reliever.
Perhaps one of Thornton or Hatch is the solution here, but, as I said, the Blue Jays aren’t overflowing with options right now. Letting Pearson just figure it out might just be the path to take. Unless, of course, the Blue Jays are ready to Free Manoah.
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