This past weekend, the Blue Jays saw the return of one of their top pitching prospects when Nate Pearson was called back up with the rosters expanding. Pearson made two appearances, both in the bullpen, which is the role he will finish the season in.
The right-hander has come up through the organization as a starting pitcher and was once thought of as the potential ace of the staff for the next half-decade. Injuries have derailed his 2021 season and the strategy for the year has changed to just get him into some Major League games in September, so he’ll finish the season pitching out of the bullpen.
The top prospect had a rough start to spring training as he battled a re-occurring groin strain, along with a sports hernia later in the season. Pearson has had three different stints on the injury list this season, the first for more than a month, the second just shy of a month and the third just shy of two months. Since he returned to the Buffalo Bisons in mid-August after his third injury, Pearson had been used in one inning per outing. However, he is showing signs of what made him a top prospect in those appearances, as he tossed six innings allowing just two runs while striking out eight.
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The recently turned 25-year old was called back up to the Blue Jays last week and looked absolutely dominant in his most recent appearance this past Sunday to finish off an 8-0 win for the Blue Jays over the Oakland Athletics. Pearson collected his first major league strikeout of the season as he struck out the side in order on 14 pitches.
Nate Pearson returned to the Blue Jays this past week and will be used in relief. The question now is doing you move forward with him there next season?
One might want to write off this season as an injury-filled year and get him back working towards a starting rotation position for 2022. But looking at his track record, Pearson has spent a substantial amount of time on the injured list over his career. In 2018, he pitched just 1.2 innings as a comebacker broke his forearm during his first start of the season and then an oblique injury that year as well.
In 2020, Pearson made his major league debut and got every fan excited as he tossed five shutout innings against the defending World Series Champions Washington Nationals. Unfortunately, just three starts later he would again find time on the injured list. After throwing just 11.1 innings and allowing 12 earned runs over those games he would be shut down due to a forearm strain and miss over a month of the season. Pearson would make just one more appearance, which was on September 25, as he would pitch out of the bullpen before his stellar postseason performance against Tampa.
Pearson reminds me of a couple of top-prospect pitchers in the Blue Jays history that suffered from several injuries and it seemed management kept trying to keep them in the starting rotation. This leaves me wondering that Pearson may be better suited to pitch out of the bullpen for the foreseeable future, or at least the 2022 season.
The two pitchers that come to mind are Aaron Sanchez and Dustin McGowan. Both pitchers fought several injuries over their Blue Jays tenures, looked great out of the bullpen, and were pushed hard to get back to the starting rotation. I often wonder with both of those pitchers, if they were just left in the bullpen either full-time or at least one or two seasons, would have it not been better for the player and the franchise.
There is nothing to say that after a few seasons Pearson can’t be moved back to the rotation, as pitchers like David Wells started nearly the first half-decade of his career in the bullpen, only to turn into one of the top starting pitchers of the 1990s and 2000s.
For me, I’d rather have a very effective Nate Pearson pitching in high leverage situations late in the game for one inning overseeing spot starts throughout a season because of injuries.
What are your thoughts – should the Blue Jays try and move Pearson back to the rotation in 2022 or try and get a full season out of him in the bullpen before re-evaluating it for the 2023 season?