The Blue Jays delivered the news that Nate Pearson has an injury to his groin, but in a weird way it may turn out to be a blessing in disguise.
How could losing your projected #2 be a good thing? Well I wouldn’t go as far as calling it a good thing, but there could be benefits for the Blue Jays, and we’ll start with Pearson.
One of the challenges for the Blue Jays with Pearson this year is going to be managing his workload. Having never pitched more than 101.2 innings in a single season (which he did in 2019), the Jays were always going to have to be mindful of protecting his golden arm. That’s especially the case after last year’s schedule was cut so short, and unfortunately Pearson only threw 18 regular season innings around a stint on the injured list.
It remains to be seen how long he’ll be out with a Grade 1 groin strain this spring, and unfortunately it can be the type of injury that lingers. Ross Atkins quickly stated that Pearson won’t be rushed back at all, which likely means his chances of breaking camp with the big league team are very minimal. From Mike Wilner’s recent article at the Star:
"“It’s hard to say for sure, as we’re only two days off of the injury,” said Atkins, who added “our goal and hope is that you’re seeing him again in spring training, pretty quickly. But we will be cautious because we can, and we’ll make sure that pain is completely gone before he’s back on the mound. Whether that’s a week or a couple of weeks or longer is too hard to say at this point.”"
The key takeaway I’m reading there is “hope is that you’re seeing him again in spring training”, keeping in mind we still have 3.5 weeks until the end of the spring season. If he ends up being out that long, Pearson will basically have to start from scratch as far as ramping up for the season. However, Atkins also made a good quote that Wilner quoted, saying “we have time’.
If the 24-year-old has to miss some time at the start of the year, it might be easier to keep his innings down and save some frames for the stretch run. Assuming the Blue Jays are in the thick of the playoff race, Pearson is going to be an important figure in any success they have. Maybe missing his first 3-4 first in April isn’t the worst thing in the world.
Another potential bonus is it sounds like the Blue Jays are now back in the Jake Odorizzi sweepstakes, or they’re at least checking in on the veteran starter according to Jon Heyman of the MLB Network.
He’s by far and away the best pitcher left on the free agent market, and we’ll see if he’s budged from wanting a multi-year contract. If he’s feeling the pinch of the looming regular season and the Blue Jays are willing to pay up, the fit makes a lot of sense. Even with a healthy Pearson, Odorizzi is the type of arm that could lift the ceiling of the rotation in general, and give them another veteran capable of starting a playoff game.
We’re about to find out if the Blue Jays have already spent their offseason budget, or maybe Atkins is going to cash in his trade deadline money now if he can bring Odorizzi to the Blue Jays. Short of making a big trade, there’s no better way for Atkins to improve their playoff hopes right now.
Was the rekindled interest sparked by Pearson’s injury? I can’t say for sure, but I’m guessing the news that he’ll likely miss the start of the season gave them a nudge in the right direction. Who knows, maybe this minor injury will turn out to be a blessing after all. If it means Pearson is still starting games in September and Odorizzi is in the rotation with him, then maybe it was all meant to be.