TORONTO -- Nate Pearson is ready, again, to put up triple digits and zeros.
The Blue Jays’ No. 1 prospect and the No. 8 prospect in all of Major League Baseball, per MLB Pipeline, was the club’s best pitcher in Spring Training. He overwhelmed the Minor Leaguers, humbled the Major Leaguers and, in the process, put the pressure back on the Blue Jays to roster their most physically talented pitcher on Opening Day.
The realities of the season have changed drastically, but Pearson has used the three-and-a-half month shutdown as an extended offseason. Speaking with MLB Network Radio on Wednesday, the 23-year-old said he’s sharpened up his curveball, a pitch that has trailed his slider in the past, and improved the command on his changeup, a pitch that flashed incredible potential in spring as he worked it off his 100 mph fastball.
“The results will speak for themselves,” Pearson said.
It’s no longer a conversation of talent with Pearson and given the 60-game schedule, it’s less a conversation of workload. Back in early March, general manager Ross Atkins said that part of Pearson’s development was “ensuring that he has every chance to increase that workload in a logical and smart way” after pitching 101 2/3 innings in 2019 and missing nearly all of '18 with a broken arm.
Pearson’s power arm could bully opponents over 60 games, but he knows that service time remains a factor. For now, he’s controlling what he can.
“I’m hoping I’ll get some more clarity once we get back into camp, but I’m just going [to go] out there and try to break with the team,” Pearson said. “It’s not my decision if I can do that, but I can control how I pitch and how I handle it. Whatever the case may be, if I’m not ready or if it’s just a service time thing, so be it. I’ll be ready for when my time comes.”
Being a Minor Leaguer still, Pearson was on the outside looking in through the negotiations between MLB and the MLBPA, but was kept in the loop by Matt Shoemaker, the Blue Jays’ player rep, in the players’ still-active Spring Training group chat. Pearson also had Triple-A lefty Tayler Saucedo staying with him through the shutdown, so the two were able to play catch regularly and organized bullpen sessions off mounds while maintaining physical distancing practices.
Pearson insists he’s gotten better since March, a quiet confidence that hasn’t wavered. The Blue Jays love the arm, of course, but plenty of young pitchers throw hard and 100 mph doesn't drop as many jaws as it used to. It’s Pearson’s ability to pair that arm with a pitching mind and off-field focus that leaves the club optimistic that his sky-high ceiling is realistic.
When players are asked how they feel about great expectations or career accomplishments, there’s an easy way out. You’ll hear most say that they’re focused on today and controlling what’s in front of them, but not Pearson.
He’s already good, but he wants to be great and he’s not going to dance around that.
“I’m always thinking about it,” Pearson said. “It’s the reason why I work so hard and the way I push myself. I don’t let one day go to waste. I look at all of the great pitchers who have played this game, and none of them took a day off. They’re always locked in, they’re always working with a purpose and that’s what I pride myself on.”