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Jays pitching prospect Pearson sizzles in All Star Futures Game

Jays prospect Nate Pearson routinely hits triple digits on the speed gun with his fastball. His slowest fastball at last night’s Futures Game was 
98.9 mph.
Jays prospect Nate Pearson routinely hits triple digits on the speed gun with his fastball. His slowest fastball at last night’s Futures Game was 98.9 mph.

CLEVELAND Nate Pearson knows that when people watch him throw a baseball, eyes follow the radar gun reading as much his delivery and where the ball actually sizzles.

Overall he’s fine with it – when you your fastball can clock 104 miles per hour and routinely hits triple digits, why wouldn’t you be?

But perhaps the most encouraging thing about the Blue Jays top pitching prospect is that he’s determined to be a dominant big-league starter.

“It’s always cool to throw it hard and everything, but I don’t want to be just known for that,” Pearson said in an interview here on Sunday prior to his dominant inning of work in the Futures Game, a talent tease to kick off Major League Baseball’s All Star Week.

“I want to be known as a great pitcher and that’s what I’m in the process of trying to do.”

That’s all well and good – and he certainly showed a lethal slider while pitching a perfect fifth inning Sunday night – but it’s the fastball that fires people up and brings hitters down.

Four times the speed gun eclipsed 101 miles per hour, with a top reading of 101.7. Of the 12 pitches he threw in his two strikeout inning, seven were fastballs and the SLOWEST was 98.9 miles per hour.

“Anybody who throws the ball that hard, it makes you uncomfortable,” said White Sox prospect Luis Robert, who has faced Pearson in the past. “He’s big and he throws it hard.”

Uncomfortable would be an understatement as big league hitters may find out sooner or later should Pearson remain healthy and continue to power his way up the baseball ladder.

Evidence of that “process” Pearson speaks of taking root came with his final pitch on Sunday, an 89 mph slider to strike out 2018 first rounder Joey Bart.

“The more I throw them, the more comfortable I am,” Pearson said of his non fastball offerings. “That’s my main goal for this year – just to develop pitches. To do that, I’ve got to keep throwing them.”

His outing on Sunday – in front of 34,386 at Progressive Field and thus easily the largest crowd he’s played to – was typical work for Pearson, a tantalizing prospect for an organization starved for high-end pitching at the big-league level.

So far, 2019 has been full of promise, first with single A Dunedin and now with double A New Hampshire and the 22-year-old Odessa, Fla. native is trending in the right direction.

In 49 innngs pitched between the two teams, Pearson has a tidy ERA of 2.39 and for the remainder of the year will no longer be under a strict innings watch.

Given that he missed almost all of last season with a broken bone in his arm, the Jays player development gurus have been meticulous in handling Pearson. Until now, he’s alternated between five inning and two inning assignments but it appears that harness is about to be loosened.

“I’ve finished that now and the rest of the year I’m going to be going five or six (innings) each outing from here on out,” Pearson said.

Just as he wowed Jays scouts in a workout prior to his draft year by throwing 102, Pearson has impressed other observers this year. Recently, he jumped from Baseball America’s 70th-ranked prospect to 16th, both a subjective and objective evaluation.

“I try not to follow it too much, but my Dad does,” Pearson said of those rankings. “It’s relevant, but then again it’s not. It’s all about how you pitch. That’s all I can control.”

So far, 2019 has certainly been a nice bounce back season for Pearson, who logged just 1 2/3 innings in 2018 before getting injured. After a minor groin injury in mid June, Pearson returned to action last Thursday, setting him up for his scintillating Sunday.

Back to what he can control – that heater that flummoxes opposing batters – Pearson’s hardest recorded radar gun clocking to date was the 104.1 mph fastball he unleashed in the first inning of the Fall Stars game in Arizona.

For the remainder of the season, the powerful righty wants to continue his development. While pushing a pitch count of 85 he hopes to be dominant enough in double A to get a triple A taste of Buffalo later in the summer.

A first-round pick by the Jays in 2017, the 6-foot-6, 245 pounder is an avid follower of what is happening with the big-league team and is enthused by the exposure so many Jays prospects are getting during this throwaway season.

“We’re young and we’re giving the young guys chances right now,” Pearson said. “We’re moving in the right direction. You can’t say we’re rebuilding because we have so many good prospects – it’s just waiting for them to be ready.

“I know my time is coming. I just can’t wait to be up there with them and sharing that whole experience of starting our careers together.”

And bringing some heat to the proceedings, of course.

BIG STEP FOR GTA NATIVE

CLEVELAND — The first step on Jordan Balazovic’s road to the big leagues came when the Minnesota Twins selected him in the fifth round of the 2016 draft.

The Mississauga, Ont. native feels much closer now, however, after getting the call to represent the Twins at the All-Star Futures game.

The right-handed pitcher is moving up the ranks with the Twins, most recently moving up to the Fort Myers of the Florida League.

“This is unbelievable,” the 20-year-old Balazovic said. “It’s an honour to be here. It’s just been awesome to have my name get out there and continue to improve.

“I don’t want to be here just for a day, I want to be here every day,” Balazovic said. “It really opens your eyes to what it’s all about.”

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019

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