Nate Pearson's season has been a seesaw of short outings and longer outings -- all by design -- to get him ready for a strong summer run. Judging by his last few, it's working.
Toronto's No. 2 prospect allowed one hit over five innings in his second straight scoreless start, the only knock of the day against his team, with reliever Willy Ortiz carrying the brilliant effort the rest of the way as Double-A New Hampshire blanked Richmond, 2-0.
Video: New Hampshire's Pearson records the whiff
"I'm just happy to walk off the mound healthy," Pearson said after his seventh start for the Fisher Cats. "Had a good outing today, fastball command was working. I had a lot of stuff working early on. My catcher, [Riley Adams], we were in sync. He was putting down some pretty good calls I was going with, and we were just rolling, trying to get a groove going."
Pearson retired the first nine batters he faced, three via strikeouts, on 34 pitches to get his afternoon underway.
"You go three up, three down for the first [three] innings, it builds so much more confidence," he said. "You know you're going to cruise through the rest of the outing, really."
Gameday box score
The 22-year-old right-hander did just that over his final two frames, even with the day's lone blemish. With one out in the top of the fourth, Richmond's Johneshwy Fargas hit a slow dribbler toward short and was called safe on Vinny Capra's throw to first on a bang-bang play.
"I thought he was out pretty clearly," Pearson said. "I thought everyone else thought so, too, but, obviously, the umpire didn't think so. It is what it is. I wish it was an out, but it is what it is. Can't really do much about it."
The 2017 first-rounder rebounded to face the minimum, as Fargas was caught stealing second for the final out of the fourth. In the fifth, Richmond's Jacob Heyward got aboard on an error by third baseman Nash Knight but also was caught stealing by Adams. Pearson got a groundout to second base from Will Maddox to end his day.
The native of Odessa, Florida, alternated starts of two innings and five innings throughout the year. Sunday made it three scoreless outings in his last four.
"It's all about looking out for the best for me," he said. "They want me to be able to go deep into games late in the season, so right now we have to limit my innings so I can do that in the back half of the season. It's just something that I have to get through now, and I really don't mind it. Sometimes when I get my two innings, I get into that rhythm I know I was in today and I really want to go back out, but they tell me I'm done and take the ball from me. It's kind of frustrating, but it's all fun. It's still a game."
Over his last seven innings, Pearson has struck out six with no walks and one hit, dropping his Double-A ERA to 2.92
"It just proves that I belong here," he said. "I can get these hitters out, and that's just what I'm trying to do, work on my craft, work on my pitches each time out and try to get better each time."
2019 MiLB include
Ortiz (2-3) pitched four perfect innings to complete the victory.
"Oh, that was awesome," Pearson said. "Willy's got an explosive arm. It's fun to watch."
Chad Spanberger did all the offensive work for the Fisher Cats by hitting a two-run double in the bottom of the sixth.
As for Pearson, with momentum building, he's keeping his focus on controllable factors.
"Just fastball command," he said. "When I command my fastball, that's when I have my best outings. I've just got to make that more consistent each outing, and I'll be all right."