A white Blue Jays uniform with No. 82 on the back hung in a stall underneath Nate Pearson’s nameplate in the home clubhouse at Rogers Centre on Thursday.
Call it a teaser for what will likely be the real thing later this year.
Pearson is one of the top pitching prospects in Major League Baseball and chances are good he’ll make the jump to the big leagues at some point this season.
“I’m pretty confident in my abilities now, especially making it up to triple-A and facing some big-league hitters that were there in my few starts,” Pearson said. “I know I can compete with the best of them. I think I’m pretty close to being ready.
“Obviously they want me to work on a few more things, and if I have to start in triple-A Buffalo, I’ll just work on the stuff they provide me to do and hopefully I can get the call up soon.”
He was joined by 11 other prospects for a 2020 development program media availability ahead of WinterFest weekend at the domed stadium.
Pearson is eager to show his stuff at spring training after an impressive performance at three different levels in 2019. He had a 2.30 earned-run average over 25 starts, including three solid appearances with the Bisons.
“This past season was really a good breakout season for me,” Pearson said. “I established that I was healthy and got a good innings limit on me.
“But other than that, I think this spring training will be a good experience for me being around the big-league guys and learning from them.”
The six-foot-six 245-pounder has an all-world fastball, which was clocked at 103 miles an hour in the Arizona Fall League in 2018. An imposing presence on the mound, Pearson also throws an impressive slider and curveball.
A first-round pick in the 2017 draft, he turned 23 last summer and could very well be an anchor at the front of the Blue Jays rotation for years to come.
Pearson suffered a fractured right forearm in 2018 after being struck by a line drive, but his play last season showed the early hype was real. One highlight was his triple-A debut when he threw seven scoreless innings and didn’t allow a runner to reach second base.
He’s currently the second-ranked right-handed pitching prospect by MLB behind Detroit’s Casey Mize.
“When you’re that big and you throw that hard, everybody knows about you,” fellow pitching prospect Thomas Hatch said. “It’s fun to watch.”
Some baseball observers feel Pearson may get a taste of the big leagues in May or June while others think he may be a September call-up. Chances are good he’ll start the season with the Bisons, where he’ll be looking to force the Blue Jays’ hand with his performance.
“I kind of just control what I can control,” Pearson said. “I can’t make the call whether I make it out of spring training. But what I can control is how I come into spring being ready and make sure I’m on my A-game and just put up some good numbers and see how it goes.”
Some of the other prospects in attendance included shortstop Logan Warmoth, third baseman Nash Knight and right-handers Julian Merryweather and Jordan Romano.