Pearson (groin) shut down, no timetable

March 4th, 2021

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Blue Jays No. 1 prospect is dealing with a Grade 1 strain to his right groin, general manager Ross Atkins said Thursday ahead of the club's 8-2 loss to the Tigers.

The right-hander, who is also No. 10 on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 list, injured the groin in Monday’s outing against the Pirates at TD Ballpark, during which he needed 28 pitches to get through one inning.

“It’s hard to say for sure as we’re only two days off of the injury, so we’d like to have a bit more time before we put timelines on it and talk about when you’ll see him again,” Atkins said, “but our goal and hope is that you’re seeing him again here in Spring Training pretty quickly.”

Given that we’re still in early March, the Blue Jays will take a conservative approach with Pearson. Just how conservative remains to be seen, but the long-term value of having Pearson at 100 percent will be the club’s top priority.

“We will be cautious because we can, and we’ll make sure that pain is completely gone before he’s back on the mound,” Atkins said. “Whether that’s a week or a couple of weeks or longer is too hard to say at this point.”

Pearson profiles as a key piece in the Blue Jays’ rotation this year, especially given the exceptional upside in his arm. This rotation has plenty of depth beyond the top five, but it still needs an improvement in its top half if Toronto hopes to compete into October. In-season upgrades are clearly possible, but Pearson represents this rotation’s best shot at a No. 2-calber starter from within.

As a rookie in 2020, Pearson posted a 6.00 ERA over 18 innings, learning some lessons along the way. Pearson eventually hit the injured list with right elbow rightness and missed the end of the regular season, but returned in the Wild Card Series against the Rays and was simply dominant, striking out five Rays batters over two clean innings of work.

Zeuch looks like his throwback self
opened Thursday's game with two shutout innings, allowing two hits and one walk. Zeuch did more light throwing over the offseason to keep his arm moving and avoid the shortened throwing motion he got into previously. He felt good about establishing his fastball and sticking to his strength, which is forcing ground-ball contact.

“Part of my game that still needs to develop is finishing guys off when I’m in those big-advantage counts like 0-2, 1-2,” Zeuch said. “I think I’ve come a long way in terms of getting into more of those advantage counts.”

Know the name:
Zulueta, the 23-year-old Cuban right-hander, is generating boatloads of buzz within the organization. The Blue Jays signed Zulueta in 2019, and he underwent Tommy John surgery soon thereafter, but he has been back pitching since last fall. Intelligent and athletic with a loose, easy delivery, Zulueta has been sitting in the 95-99 mph range with his fastball.

His spring debut on Thursday was rocky, with the inning being cut short after two outs when Zulueta had thrown 12 strikes on 24 pitches, but you could see the upside. He averaged 96.9 mph on his fastball and peaked at 97.9 mph.


• The Blue Jays’ outfielders are taking turns one-upping each other with defensive gems in Florida. Thursday, it was with one of the best catches of his career in center field. Running at a full sprint back into the right-center-field gap, Davis dove high into the air to make the catch, robbing Isaac Paredes of extra bases.

worked a fantastic walk in his first trip to the plate. After going down 0-2 to Tigers right-hander Spencer Turnbull, Guerrero took a slider for ball one, then just missed hammering a fastball at the top of the zone, which he fouled back. Guerrero then took three straight breaking balls just outside the zone down and away for the walk. He advanced nicely from first to third on an single, too.

• That Kirk single drove in Marcus Semien for the first run of the game. Kirk shot a 96.4 mph sinker the other way, sneaking it between the Tigers’ first baseman and the line. It wasn’t a jam shot, either, as Kirk produced an impressive 103.3 mph exit velocity.

missed a home run by an inch in the second inning, bouncing one off the top of the wall in right field. Statcast measured the fly ball at 342 feet, and it was another example of Biggio being aggressive early in counts this spring.

• Biggio has also looked comfortable at third base, his new primary position for 2021. It’s far too early to draw any sweeping conclusions, of course, but Biggio fielded a ricochet off the foot of Zeuch and made a sharp throw to first to retire a runner in the second. His arm is the primary question at the hot corner, but his baseball IQ and instincts are why the Blue Jays feel comfortable moving him around. Manager Charlie Montoyo particularly liked one play where Biggio moved to his left but slowed the play down for a moment after fielding the ball, then setting his feet and firing to first.

• Right-hander struggled out of the bullpen. The 21-year-old hit Zack Short in the helmet with an errant fastball, then missed several more times with pitches that sailed well wide of the zone, and he spiked some breaking balls along the way. The Rule 5 Draft wonder from 2019 is being developed as a starter.

• Right-hander is dealing with an “elbow injury where there is some UCL involvement,” Atkins said. The Blue Jays feel this is a minor injury, but they’ll exercise caution. Baker, 26, came over in 2018 from the Rockies in the Seunghwan Oh deal. The hard-throwing right-hander is expected to open the season with Triple-A Buffalo.