'A blessing': Pearson back with Blue Jays
Springer returns to lineup after exiting Tuesday's loss
TORONTO -- Help is on the way for the Blue Jays’ bullpen. Big, hard-throwing help.
Blue Jays No. 2 prospect Nate Pearson was added to the roster on Wednesday along with right-hander Bryan Baker as rosters expanded from 26 to 28 for September. Pearson’s injury-riddled season finally brings him back to where he belongs, albeit shortened into a relief role to help down the stretch.
“It’s gone pretty smoothly,” Pearson said. “I enjoy coming out of the ‘pen but I also enjoy starting. I just love baseball, so being able to pitch and be healthy is just a blessing.”
Multiple groin injuries have gotten in the way of Pearson’s 2021 season, and he was eventually diagnosed with a sports hernia. His lone MLB outing was forgettable, walking five over just 2 1/3 innings back in May, but Pearson has built his way back up through August and sharpened his control.
The ideal outcome for the Blue Jays here is Pearson recapturing what he showed in the 2020 AL Wild Card Series against the Rays, when he struck out five over two absolutely dominant innings. Both he and Baker will be eased in with low-leverage appearances if possible, but Pearson could be headed for high-leverage spots quickly if all goes well. His bullpen transition has been aided by Baker, too, who’s earned this opportunity with a fantastic season in Triple-A, posting a 1.32 ERA with 40 strikeouts over 32 innings.
“When I got back to Buffalo, he was the main guy I talked to about routines,” Pearson said. “He had a lot of success and it was pretty impressive to watch. I was like a fly on the wall watching him work. We were throwing partners since I’ve been back in Buffalo as a reliever, and it’s pretty awesome that we’re throwing partners here in the big leagues."
Entering Wednesday’s series finale against the Orioles 4 1/2 games back of the second Wild Card spot in the AL, the Blue Jays need an airtight bullpen down the stretch. Their starting rotation has been strong, but with the lineup going through a long, unexpected period of struggle, the pitching needs to lead the way.
“When I was down in Florida, I was watching every game,” Pearson said. “I was taking it in, watching the pitchers, the hitters. I was watching us rake, watching us strike out everyone -- Robbie Ray -- and it was fun to watch. I missed being up here. I missed being with the team, but it was cool to see them have so much success.”
Springer back in lineup after Tuesday scare
The best news on Wednesday came when the Blue Jays’ lineup was released with George Springer at the top. The star outfielder had left Tuesday’s 4-2 loss as a precaution, when he looked to be in some discomfort running the bases, immediately leading to worry as he’d just spent time on the IL with a left knee sprain.
"Sometimes it flares up and he feels it in his knee, and then you might see him not running full speed, but he's fine,” said manager Charlie Montoyo. “It can't get any worse, from what I hear from the medical staff."
Springer will wear a different knee brace now and the Blue Jays will keep an eye on this, but it seems to be a matter of pain management from here on out. Getting Springer back in the outfield would be ideal, but for now, having him in the lineup at DH is plenty valuable.
Childhood Cancer Awareness Day
Wednesday is the sixth annual Childhood Cancer Awareness Day in MLB, with the league and clubs raising awareness during all games. Held in collaboration with Stand Up to Cancer (SU2C), this day will combine a visual and ceremonial demonstration of support for the cause along with outreach to local hospitals treating local youth.
All on-field personnel, including players, managers, coaches and umpires will be wearing gold ribbon decals. Major League Baseball is one of Stand Up to Cancer’s founding donors and has pledged more than $50 million to its cancer research programs.