TORONTO – Nate Pearson is working towards a return as a reliever after his troublesome groin issues were traced back to a sports hernia, giving the Toronto Blue Jays a potentially game-changing addition for their bullpen in the home stretch.
General manager Ross Atkins revealed the news during a Zoom call with media Tuesday, calling clarity on the 24-year-old’s injury woes a “huge, huge relief” for both the electric-armed righty with the triple-digit fastball and the club.
Pearson, out since June 16 in a season interrupted three times by groin issues and once by some shoulder soreness, has resumed throwing and is expected be back on a mound for live batting practice “within a week and back into competitive baseball just shortly after that, assuming things go smoothly,” said Atkins.
Between managing the injury and his workload, the Blue Jays will push back their plans for him to start and he “could be a reliever option for us in the near term,” the GM added.
The situation is reminiscent of the Blue Jays’ handling of Aaron Sanchez in 2015, when the right-hander began the year in the rotation, suffered an injury and returned as an elite leverage reliever.
Pearson made two relief appearances last year after returning from a forearm injury and the Blue Jays would gladly take two months of that in their bullpen. In two appearances, one of them in the post-season against the Tampa Bay Rays, he logged 3.2 innings and struck out seven batters, allowing just a hit and a walk.
“Throwing that hard and throwing the fastball by people, he looked great. If I'm imagining that, that would be a good weapon for us to have,” said manager Charlie Montoyo. “But he's got to build up to that and see how it goes before we see him here.”
The Blue Jays’ plan for Pearson remains returning him to start next year, according to Atkins, but managing the sports hernia “conservatively” for now before considering “the potential of other procedures or other ways of managing it” will allow him to bolster a bullpen that needs more of his elite stuff.
Atkins also didn’t rule out keeping Thomas Hatch, making a spot start for the injured Alek Manoah on Tuesday, in the bullpen once the big right-hander returns from the injured list, which is expected once he’s eligible to return next week.
The duo would certainly change the look of a relief corps that’s been a trouble spot since injuries tore through the initial group. How their potential additions impact the club’s plans ahead of the trade deadline is uncertain, but Atkins emphasized that the club’s options for improving the roster weren’t limited to the pitching staff.
“We have to think about winning, really, is what it comes down to,” he said. “It's not just as simple as preventing more runs. If we can't improve our team via run prevention, whether that's pitching defence or just complementary players, we'll think about improving it from an offensive standpoint as well. The market is not clearly defined yet. There's still more to learn on teams and exactly what they will be doing, exactly who will be available and just how available they are. Prices, as you guys know, tend to really take shape closer to the actual deadline.
“But it feels like there's opportunities in all of (those areas). Maybe a little bit less so in the starting pitching category.”