It remains to be seen how many innings Nate Pearson can throw for the Blue Jays in 2021, but it sounds like he’s ready, and open-minded.
That could be very important for the 24-year-old that is poised for his first full season in the big leagues. He made five appearances last year around some time spent on the Injured List, and one of the biggest goals for this season will be building up his workload. So far, his career high as a pro was in 2019 when he threw 101.2 innings split between A/AA/AAA.
With that in mind, we should expect that there will be some sort of limit on his innings count this season. My guess is at best, he might be able to reach 130-140 innings, which would be a significant increase. The Blue Jays aren’t going to push one of their most prized possessions too far this year, and they might have to get creative in order to manage his workload.
Assuming he can stay healthy all season and take a regular turn in the rotation, manager Charlie Montoyo could do a few different things to keep Pearson’s innings count down. They could skip the odd turn for the right-hander and plug in a spot starter, or maybe even piggy-back his outings with a longer reliever from time to time. Whatever the plan, Pearson is saying the right things at the moment, and sounds ready for a big season.
Appearing on MLB Network radio on Sirius XM, Pearson was asked what he thinks would be a reasonable expectation for him for innings pitched in 2021. The Florida native was quick to express confidence and excitement.
"“I’m going to try to get as many innings as I can. This is a big year for our team with all of the new additions, and I’m ready to fill whatever role I can at the big league level and just be ready to pitch when my name gets called.”"
That’s an interesting answer, no? Filling whatever role he can at the big league level?
"“So that’s basically my mindset. Obviously I want to try and win a starting job and just be one of the main guys in the rotation, and just, you know, help the team win as much as I can.”"
I very much admire the fact that Pearson isn’t assuming anything will be handed to him. He was also asked if he looks at this spring as needing to improve on his stamina, or it being more of having to win a job in the rotation.
"“I mean, you approach it both ways. I’ve got stuff I want to work on like throwing strikes, attacking the zone, staying ahead in counts, and I think if I meet all of those goals in Spring Training the second part is going to take care of itself. I’ll be pitching good and having success in Spring Training and showing them what I’ve got. I think all of it will take care of itself as long as I continue to work on my craft, and just you, the art of just getting better at the sport.”"
Again, that’s the right attitude from a young pitcher with just 18.0 regular season innings under his belt, even if he’s one of the most exciting pitching prospects the Blue Jays have ever had. In theory he will need to win a job in the rotation, even if he should be all but guaranteed a spot to start the regular season.
What I found particularly interesting is that Pearson sounds open to pitching in a role other than in the rotation, and that could be important in the latter stages of the season. Maybe that means he’ll take a similar path that we saw with Aaron Sanchez, who the Jays bounced between the rotation and the bullpen early in his career. He would be quite the weapon out of the bullpen down the stretch, and especially in the postseason.
One way or another the Blue Jays are going to have to manage Pearson’s workload in 2021. That could be done in a variety of ways, but based on his most recent comments, it sounds like he’s ready to help the team win in whatever way they need him.