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Top pitching prospect dominates Yanks in debut

@KeeganMatheson
February 25, 2020

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Nate Pearson is good, and he knows it. Now the Yankees do, too. The Blue Jays’ No. 1 prospect dominated New York in his lone inning of work in Tuesday's 4-1 loss, needing just 12 pitches to strike out the side while hitting 98 mph on the

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Nate Pearson is good, and he knows it. Now the Yankees do, too.

The Blue Jays’ No. 1 prospect dominated New York in his lone inning of work in Tuesday's 4-1 loss, needing just 12 pitches to strike out the side while hitting 98 mph on the radar guns.

Sure, nerves hit the 23-year-old, with a dozen family members and friends in the stands, but that’s part of the gig. The more he speaks, the more clear it is that he is supremely confident in his ability. That makes those early jitters a little easier to handle.

“No one’s forcing me to be here. I want to be here, and it’s my dream to chase and the nerves are just a part of it, and I just have to handle it,” he said. “I want to be great, and with greatness comes a lot of other stuff."

Pearson’s teammates joked about his velocity in the dugout, since it wasn’t showing on the scoreboard at TD Ballpark, and he admitted he peeked up a few times just in case. He was able to read the swings, though, and the hitters certainly didn’t look comfortable.

Manager Charlie Montoyo had a front-row seat, and he's excited to see a full season of the show.

“That's the perfect spot to see it,” Montoyo said. "I’m pretty close. So yeah, that ball was getting on the hitters pretty quick, and there were three big league hitters, so that was good. That was great to see, actually. It was impressive."

Development remains for the big right-hander. He’s particularly focused on his curveball this spring, but the talent is undeniable. The focus, then, immediately shifts to the “when” and “how” he gets to the big leagues in 2020.

A safe estimate would see him join the Blue Jays a couple of months into the season, but just how his workload is managed will be a major factor. Pearson threw 101 2/3 innings last season after missing most of 2018 with a broken arm, and that total was kept down by having him throw just two innings in every other start early on. The plan worked as well as the Blue Jays could have hoped, but it’s more complicated than an innings number.

“The innings are just a component of the workload,” said general manager Ross Atkins. “Using a monitoring process over the course of the season to monitor fatigue, changes in delivery, whether it’s spin rate, velocity, effectiveness ... we’re using all of those as pieces to the equation to give him the best chance to be successful.”

It’s their belief in the person as much as the pitcher that makes the Blue Jays optimistic about Pearson’s future, and how he’ll be able to handle the hype coming his way. The young trio of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio dominated the headlines in 2019, but 2020 might belong solely to Pearson.

Keegan Matheson is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter @KeeganMatheson.