Notes: Pearson vs. Vlad; Ryu set to debut

February 21st, 2020

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Blue Jays No. 1 prospect , like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. last spring, is drawing a crowd in Dunedin. Put the two together for a round of live batting practice, and you’ve really got a show.

Pearson threw about 30 pitches in his live BP session on Friday afternoon, including one break to simulate sitting down between innings. Guerrero’s group also included Randal Grichuk, Teoscar Hernández and Rubén Tejada, giving Pearson an MLB-level challenge right out of the gates on a chilly afternoon at the club’s training complex.

The big right-hander didn’t mind the cold, though, and thinks that it might help him better prepare for Triple-A Buffalo, where he’s expected to open the season. Pearson isn’t expected to make it to Toronto until a couple of months into the 2020 season, but he’ll be one of the biggest stories in the organization regardless.

Pearson notched a pair of swinging strikes against Hernandez and forced some awkward swings from Guerrero, but there isn’t much focus being put on results just yet. Instead, Pearson valued the opportunity to pitch to Guerrero because of his ability to read a pitcher’s body.

“Vladdy’s really good about picking up my signs and picking my glove if I’m showing [signs],” Pearson said. “He said I did pretty well. I wasn’t showing my signs and he wasn’t able to pick up anything, and that was one of my main focuses today.”

Pearson backs up his triple-digit fastball with a slider, a curveball and a changeup. He didn’t feel like he had his best change on Friday, but he’s particularly focused on improving his curveball, which he calls the “fourth-best pitch” in his arsenal.

“My slider has always been way ahead of my curveball,” Pearson said, “but I’ve been trying to level it out and make all of my pitches pretty elite.”

That will come with time, but Pearson’s pitch mix is already what makes him one of the most exciting young arms in the game. Throwing 100 mph isn’t as rare as it used to be, but throwing 100 mph with an exceptional breaking ball (slider) and a usable, developing changeup is special.

For now, the focus remains more on Pearson’s workload and how he ramps up in Spring Training. After a comeback liner broke his right arm in 2018 and wiped out nearly his entire season, he came back to pitch 101 2/3 innings in '19. Pearson won’t be fully uncorked this year, with something in the 135-inning range seeming sensible, and the likelihood that he’ll pitch deep into September for the first time as a pro will be a major factor in that plan when he and the Blue Jays chart it out.

“I want to be able to show the big league coaches what I can do,” Pearson said. “I started throwing a little bit earlier this year, but the workload stays the same. You don’t want to get ready too early, you don’t want to have the workload spike too much right when you get here. That’s how a lot of pitchers get injured in Spring Training.”

Ryu debut
Manager Charlie Montoyo announced that will make his spring debut on Thursday against the Twins. Before joining his hitters over at the training complex for live BP, Montoyo shared his expectations for his new ace’s debut.

“To get people out,” Montoyo said. “All kidding aside, just to get his pitch count wherever he needs to get. Whatever happens, that’s the whole point about building his pitch count. Whenever we get to that pitch count, he’s out. It could be in the first inning, it could be in the second inning.”

Up next
The Blue Jays open Grapefruit League play on Saturday at 1:05 p.m. ET in Tampa against the Yankees, with scheduled to go up against J.A. Happ. Thornton will get the first crack at making an impression in the competition for the No. 5 rotation job, and Montoyo likes what he’s seen out of the young right-hander early in spring.

“He's in a lot better shape,” Montoyo said. “That was one of the things that we talked to him [about] after the year was over, and he did it. And again, that credit goes to all the kids, they all did a good job in the offseason. But Trent was one of those guys that we wanted him to get stronger and stuff, and he did.”