Nate Pearson Diagnosed With Lat Strain

Blue Jays righty Nate Pearson, who’s been on a minor league rehab assignment after a lengthy bout with mononucleosis, exited his most recent rehab appearance due to an injury and has now been diagnosed with a lat strain, tweets Sportsnet’s Arash Madani. The Jays don’t have a timeline yet for when Pearson might be able to return.

It’s the latest setback in a career that has, to this point, been full of unfortunate injuries and health troubles for the ultra-talented Pearson. A former first-round pick who ranked as the sport’s top overall pitching prospect just a couple years ago, Pearson has dealt with elbow, groin and shoulder injuries since making his MLB debut in 2020.

Pearson enjoyed a scintillating MLB first start that year, firing five scoreless frames against the Nationals and regularly hitting triple digits with his vaunted heater. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been healthy enough to follow up with more outings along those lines. Pearson did have an impressive run with the Toronto bullpen down the stretch in 2021, pitching 12 2/3 innings of 2.84 ERA ball with a 20-to-7 K/BB ratio with a fastball that was averaging 98.5 mph in short relief.

If Pearson can get healthy in 2022 or at any point down the line, the 25-year-old clearly has the ability to serve as a key piece of the Toronto pitching staff, be it in the rotation or out of the bullpen. The timing of his current setback is unfortunate, as it comes just a week after the Blue Jays learned that they’ll be without Hyun Jin Ryu for the rest of the year (and much of next year) following Tommy John surgery. Pearson probably wouldn’t have been built up as a rotation option right off the bat, but he’d likely have returned as a multi-inning option out of the ’pen that could help to absorb some of Ryu’s lost innings — perhaps in a role similar to the one Ross Stripling had before stepping into Ryu’s rotation spot.

The other unfortunate aspect of Pearson’s injuries, at least from the team vantage point, is that he’s still racking up service time and working through his six years of club control, because the majority of the injuries he’s incurred have happened while he’s been on the big league roster. Pearson is currently on the Major League 60-day IL, and despite having appeared in just 17 big league games, he’s all but certain to finish out the 2022 season with more than two years of service time. The Blue Jays still control him for four years beyond the current campaign, but needless to say, this isn’t how they hoped the promising young righty’s first two years of service would play out.

In the short term, what figures to be another absence of some note figures to only further the Toronto front office’s search for pitching on the summer trade market. The Blue Jays’ bullpen currently ranks 24th in the Majors with a collective 4.38 ERA, and while the rotation is sound with Alek Manoah, Kevin Gausman, Jose Berrios, Stripling and Yusei Kikuchi, the loss of Ryu has already thinned out the depth a bit.

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