The heir to the Ryu Hyun-jin “original” is awakening. Nate Pearson, 27, of the Toronto Blue Jays, entered the game as the third pitcher in the bottom of the eighth inning of a 1-1 tie against the New York Mets at Citi Field in Flushing, N.Y., on April 4 (ET) and pitched one inning, striking out two to earn the win.
Pearson has been in limbo since being selected in the first round of the 2017 draft. When Ryu Hyun-jin was acquired in the 2019-2020 offseason, the general consensus was that Pearson would develop into an ace with Ryu as a pillar. It was hard to ignore the power of his 160-mph fastball.
However, Pearson struggled with his mechanics and was prone to injuries. He made his major league debut in 2020 and appeared in 17 games in 2021, but his impact was limited. He then missed all of 2022 due to injury. Meanwhile, Alec Manoa, who came up a year later than Pearson, established himself as an ace and finished third in the American League Cy Young voting.
It seemed like Pearson had been forgotten, but this year he has reemerged as a reliever. In 13 games this season, he’s 2-1 with a 1.59 ERA. His 0.94 WHIP and .180 batting average are more stable than his career averages (1.38 WHIP and .209 batting average).
Emerged at the end of April and had a great first month of May, going 1-0 with a 1.80 ERA in 11 games. In 15 innings, he walked just two and struck out 17. Against the Mets on April 4, he topped out at 155 mph on his fastball and cooked one inning.
His pitching style completely changed. He threw a 95-96 mph fastball to leadoff hitter Jeff McNeil, then induced a fly ball up the middle 안전놀이터 with an 80 mph curve. To Pete Alonso, he drove a slider up the middle and allowed a grounder to the third baseman before stealing second.
But he struck out Brett Batty on a curveball and slider. He threw six sliders to Starling Marte and got a swinging strikeout. He’s a reliever, so you’d think he’d be more of a power pitcher, but he has a surprisingly high changeup rate. You can see that he doesn’t rely solely on his velocity.
He’s not really a set-up man in the most important situations, but the eighth inning was a high-leverage situation. The Jays scored the winning run in the bottom of the ninth and Pearson was given the save. For years, he’s been an underachiever in Toronto, but not this season. He’s become an attractive setup man. When Hyun-Jin Ryu returns in July, we could see a scenario where Pearson protects the lead that Ryu has established.