Nate Pearson’s 2021 debut is expected to take place in a start against the Astros on Sunday, Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo told reporters (including Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith). For now, the plan is for Pearson to start the game and Anthony Kay will be available in relief if needed, unless Kay is required to pitch tonight.
One of the sport’s top pitching prospects, Pearson posted a 6.00 ERA over 18 innings for Toronto last season while missing some time due to elbow tightness. Pearson then suffered a Grade 1 groin strain during Spring Training, and while the initial injury was thought to be pretty minor, he then reaggravated the issue in rehab. After missing so much time in camp, Pearson had to get healthy and then essentially reboot much of his preseason training, though the early returns are promising. In a start for Triple-A Buffalo earlier this week, the right-hander recorded eight strikeouts while allowing one run on four hits and a walk over 3 2/3 innings.
If Pearson is able to pitch close to his potential, it will be an enormous boost to a Blue Jays team that has been both racked by pitching injuries this season, and is arguably thin on arms even with everyone was at full strength. Hyun Jin Ryu and Robbie Ray have both looked good in the early going, while Steven Matz has struggled over his last three outings after beginning his Jays tenure with three quality starts. Tanner Roark has already been released, so if Pearson is able to assume a regular turn in the rotation, that would allow the Jays to move Kay or Ross Stripling into spot starter/swingman/long relief duty.