With the kind of weather the Manchester area has experienced since the beginning of April, finding someone willing to relocate from Florida this time of year would seem nearly impossible. But when the New Hampshire Fisher Cats come calling, the move becomes more manageable.
After starting six games for Advanced-A Dunedin, where he went 3-0 with a 0.86 ERA and 35 strikeouts, Toronto Blue Jays No. 3 prospect Nate Pearson arrived on the Double-A scene on May 7 and hasn’t wasted any time in putting the Eastern League on notice.
Through two starts, Pearson has posted an 11-to-0 strikeout-to-walk ratio over seven scoreless frames, and he’s already proven his fastball is for real. During his second start Tuesday night, the 22-year-old was clocked at 101 mph on the radar gun. If you blinked, you missed it.
Simply shining light on his fastball would be doing Pearson a disservice, though. While scouts have graded it a 70 on a 20-80 scale, with 80 being considered elite, it’s his ability to accurately deliver his other pitches that has impressed Fisher Cats pitching coach Vince Horsman so far.
“I think he has multiple pitches he can go to,” Horsman says. “The 101 looks good on the board and everything like that, but that’s not what defines Nate Pearson for me.
“We all know about the arm and how good it is, but the fact that he can throw multiple pitches over the plate for strikes is what is impressive for me. Especially his changeup. That’s why the 101 looks a little bit quicker, because for a guy that throws that hard, he knows how to pitch. He has good feel of his pitches.”
Pearson’s versatility is one reason why the organization is bringing him along slowly. His first start for the Fishers came on May 7 against the Portland Sea Dogs, a game in which he pitched five innings, in but still managed to strike out eight. Tuesday night’s start against the Reading Fightin’ Phils lasted two innings, but that was a result of the plan the franchise has to control his innings.
Even with the limitations, Pearson says he’s settled in well since he joined the club.
“I feel pretty good,” he said. “I’ve known a lot of these guys in the locker room for the past couple of years, so I fit right in. I didn’t really change any of my game and the way I go about it. I’ve just proved my stuff plays up here, so every day I just keep getting after it and keep getting better.”
At 6 feet, 6 inches tall and weighing 245 pounds, Pearson has the size and body type that can often make it difficult for pitchers of his stature to consistently repeat their mechanics. But Pearson is ahead of schedule.
“I’ve kind of got that under control,” he said. “Maybe when I was a little bit younger in my career I struggled in repeating my delivery, but I have pretty simple mechanics. I only go out of the stretch. I don’t have a windup, so it’s easy to repeat. It’s going pretty well so far.”
“He’s so regimented in what he does,” Horsman said of Pearson’s approach. “I don’t find (repeating his delivery) to be something that would be difficult for him to do. He’s really in touch with how his body works. Occasionally, like any other young kid that throws hard, he’ll try to overthrow it sometimes, but I think he catches himself when he does that. I’m really surprised with how well he moves for such a big guy and his work ethic is tremendous.”
He has a great foundation from which to build, and to his credit, he isn’t concerned with outside noise, which might be hard to ignore considering last year’s championship team featured a triumvirate of Hall of Famer’s sons, including Vladimir Guerrero Jr., the No. 1 prospect in all of baseball, who is currently playing for the parent club. No, Pearson is focused on his own development.
“I don’t really pay much mind to it,” he said. “Obviously, I know I’m number three or whatever it is, but I just do what I do. Every day I come to the field and get my work in. That’s all I can do. I just want to have a full, healthy year and stay away from the (injured list). Stay healthy, make my start every fifth day and put up some good numbers. That’s what I want for myself.”
Pearson’s off to a great start, and while Manchester might not resemble the West Coast of Florida, it’s one step closer to the big leagues.
Fishers win matinee
Patrick Murphy struck out 10 and allowed just one run on three hits, while catcher Alberto Mineo went 4-for-4 with a homer and five RBIs as the Fisher Cats pounded the Fightin Phils, 9-3, in a Wednesday morning game.
Kevin Smith (3 RBIs) and Brock Lundquist each had a pair of hits for New Hampshire (18-19), which travels to Hartford to begin a four-game series on Thursday night.