After tossing the ball around in the outfield, Blue Jays pitcher Nate Pearson took a few moments Tuesday to walk on the mound at Nationals Park in anticipation of his first big-league start.
His debut will come Wednesday night against Washington’s Max Scherzer in Toronto’s so-called home opener.
“I wanted to get out there on the mound, just get my bearings, take some visualization and feel what it’s like just to be around the diamond right there,” Pearson said on a pre-game video call. “Visualize home plate and the batter stepping in. Just mentally preparing for tomorrow.
“That’s really all it was. Just getting used to the atmosphere out there.”
The six-foot-six right-hander will start the third of four straight games against the reigning World Series champions. Selected 28th overall by Toronto in the 2017 draft, Pearson is considered one of the top prospects in the major leagues.
“I’ll probably get nervous tomorrow leading up to the game but it’ll be good nerves, like excitement and everything leading up to that,” he said.
Pearson, who can reach 100 mph with his fastball, started the season on the three-man taxi squad. By delaying his call-up, the Blue Jays get an extra year of contractual control.
“I try not to let that stuff bother me,” Pearson said. “Obviously bringing me up right after the service time date brings up a lot of speculation. But at the end of the day, it’s a business move. I want the Blue Jays to be successful and they’re just doing what’s best for the organization and I can’t take that personally.
“They’re just doing what owners and GMs are supposed to do, just do the best for the team. I try not to let that affect me. I just control what I can control. I’m making my debut and I’m excited for it.”
Pearson split last year between class-A Dunedin, double-A New Hampshire and triple-A Buffalo. His longest run was at New Hampshire, where he was 1-4 with a 2.59 earned-run average in 16 starts, striking out 69 and walking 21.
He said he was told last week in Boston about the team’s plans to start him in the sixth game of the year.
“The sky is the limit with this kid,” said Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo. “I’m really happy that he’s getting a chance to pitch.”
Pearson, 23, struggled early in a pre-season start against the Red Sox a week ago before settling down.
Scherzer, meanwhile, struck out 11 batters in a 4-1 loss to the New York Yankees last Thursday in a game that was called after 5 1/3 innings due to rain.
The Blue Jays will play their first five home games away from their 2020 home in Buffalo, N.Y., while work continues on Sahlen Field.
“It actually reminds me of my time in high-A in 2019 when we were playing at Jack Russell Stadium while they were renovating our spring-training facility,” Pearson said. “So we were playing on the road but wearing our home jerseys in Daytona and in the Phillies’ stadium.
“So I’ve had experience playing in home jerseys in a visiting ballpark. I just thought of that when I heard I’d be starting the home opener in D.C. It’s pretty cool to think about.”
It’s possible that Pearson could make 10-12 starts over the course of the regular season, which has been shortened to 60 games due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’m about to achieve a dream and a goal that I’ve had since I was little,” Pearson said. “I’m just enjoying this whole process.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 28, 2020.
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© 2020 The Canadian Press