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Blue Jays: What role will Nate Pearson fill for the playoffs?

BUFFALO, NY - SEPTEMBER 25: Nate Pearson #24 of the Toronto Blue Jays throws a pitch during the fourth inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Sahlen Field on September 25, 2020 in Buffalo, New York. The Blue Jays are the home team due to the Canadian government's policy on COVID-19, which prevents them from playing in their home stadium in Canada. (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images)
BUFFALO, NY - SEPTEMBER 25: Nate Pearson #24 of the Toronto Blue Jays throws a pitch during the fourth inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Sahlen Field on September 25, 2020 in Buffalo, New York. The Blue Jays are the home team due to the Canadian government's policy on COVID-19, which prevents them from playing in their home stadium in Canada. (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images) /
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He won’t be able to build up enough arm strength to be a starter, but Nate Pearson showed the Blue Jays the kind of value he can bring to the bullpen for the playoff run.

The Blue Jays are still missing a few significant players because of injury, but thankfully they’re getting some key contributors back just in time for the playoffs.

Making his return on Friday night, Nate Pearson reminded everyone watching why he entered the season with so much hype. Obviously things didn’t go according to plan for the big right-hander, who only made four appearances with mixed results before hitting the Injured List. That said, he has a real chance to change his 2020 narrative now that he’s healthy, and he gave us a preview with his first outing back on Friday night.

He ended up throwing 1.2 innings, allowing one hit and issuing one walk, but the stat line doesn’t tell the tale. Pearson was aggressive and attacked hitters with his triple-digit fastball, striking out the first on three pitches, and finishing him off with a 101 MPH heater. He showed off his breaking ball as well, and proved that he’s worthy of a spot on the post-season roster.

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Having said that, what kind of role will he fit for Charlie Montoyo‘s playoff pitching staff? Obviously we know he’ll be coming out of the bullpen, but will there be a specific role for him?

The complicating factor here is the Blue Jays will almost certainly be careful with how they use him. There’s almost zero chance that they’ll put him into action on back to back days, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he was limited to just one appearance in the first round, which is just three games. That said, if you find the right spot to unleash his talented right arm, he could be a difference maker.

Last week I wrote about how Pearson might be able to help the Blue Jays deal with the loss of Ken Giles. I don’t expect that he’ll close games, as the 8th and 9th inning likely belong to Anthony Bass and Rafael Dolis, but there are important outs to get in the sixth and seventh inning. That’s especially important in an era where the starting pitcher rarely gets to see the opposing batting order for a third time, usually limiting them to around five innings.

In my mind, Pearson could be an ideal pitcher to have waiting to use after a guy like Hyun Jin Ryu in Game 1. I think you let Ryu pitch as long as he’s effective, but assuming he throws six innings or less, Pearson could be an important bridge to the back of the bullpen. He’d also provide a pretty drastic contrast from the finesse approach of Ryu, and they also throw from different sides. Maybe they don’t need him in Game 1 and he can be available later in the series in a similar spot as well.

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The best news of the night was that Pearson proved that he’s healthy, and now that we know that, it’s pretty exciting to think about how he’s going to make the Blue Jays pitching staff better, both in the future, and for the playoff appearance that awaits them.

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