Nate Pearson still left with plenty to prove for the Blue Jays

Sep 5, 2021; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays relief pitcher Nate Pearson (24) pitches against the Oakland Athletics at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 5, 2021; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays relief pitcher Nate Pearson (24) pitches against the Oakland Athletics at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports /

It’s been a struggle for Nate Pearson since being diagnosed with mononucleosis in late March and uncertainty still surrounds his future with the Blue Jays.

There was plenty of excitement surrounding Nate Pearson, when the Toronto Blue Jays selected him with the 28th overall pick in the 2017 draft. Considered one of the top pitching prospects in the game, he was seemingly destined to enjoy a successful career in the Majors.

The excitement only grew, when Pearson made his debut for the Blue Jays in July 2020. He pitched 5.0 innings and gave up just two hits, a couple of walks and no runs, while striking out five.

Unfortunately for the 25-year-old, things have not gone to plan since that promising Major League debut. During 17 appearances in 2020-21 — including five starts — he recorded a 5.18 ERA, 6.03 FIP and 1.606 WHIP.

Hoping to prove he was still capable of living up to his potential, Pearson suffered another setback ahead of the 2022 regular season. He was shut down in late March, after being diagnosed with mononucleosis.

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Initially, the expectation was that Pearson would be able to join the Blue Jays’ bullpen by mid-April. This timeline proved to be optimistic though, with the ball club subsequently being forced to take a more cautious approach with the pitcher’s rehab.

The Odessa, Florida native threw a live bullpen session towards the end of April, before heading to Florida to build up innings and his arm strength. He then pitched a simulated game and had a rehab assignment with Low-A Dunedin.

Since then, Pearson moved up to Triple-A Buffalo for the final stage of his rehab. He threw 2.0 innings in his first outing for the Bisons, striking out two but also giving up a solo home run.

As per TSN, Pearson was transferred to the 60-day injured list last Monday, but this shouldn’t impact the timetable for his return. The move was done to make room for Matt Gage on the 40-man roster.

In respect of the timetable for the righty, the latest time line has him potentially returning in late June. However, as with previous projections, nothing is set in stone.

As frustrating as this likely is for Pearson, the cautious approach is a sensible one by the Blue Jays. If he is to have any chance of still fulfilling his potential, he cannot afford any unnecessary setbacks by returning to action too soon.

In respect of Pearson’s potential, it’s still there. However, after originally being projected as a top option in the rotation, there are now — fairly or not — questions about if he should be a starter full stop.

At this stage, it is probably better (and more realistic) for the former FIU Panther to be used as a multi-innings reliever. Even in this scenario, he could still also be used as a primary backup option as a starter when the rotation suffers any injuries.

Ultimately, Pearson still has the opportunity to be a valuable asset for the Blue Jays, albeit maybe not as valuable as previously considered. By the same token, the pressure is only going to increase as we move forward, as he still has plenty to prove.

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What is your prediction for Pearson’s career moving forward, whether it be with the Blue Jays or eventually elsewhere? Do you see him still fulfilling his potential as a former top prospect, or at least become a regular starter in the rotation? Or is he destined to settle for a role in the bullpen? Let us know in the comments section below.