Nate Pearson's 2018 season has nowhere to go but up.
After missing time with a right oblique injury, Toronto's No. 4 prospect made his 2018 debut for Class A Advanced Dunedin on Monday night. The right-hander lasted just 1 2/3 innings after he was hit in his pitching arm by a line drive off the bat of Bradenton's Tyler Gaffney.
The Blue Jays announced Tuesday morning that Pearson will miss four to six weeks with a diagnosed non-displaced fractured ulna in his right forearm.
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Pearson, who struck out 26 and walked just five over 20 innings in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League and Class A Short-Season Vancouver in his pro debut in 2017, had been out of action since early April after sustaining the oblique injury in Spring Training. He made three appearances in extended spring camp and was added to the full-season team's roster early Monday.
Dunedin pitching coach Mark Riggins said Pearson looked as advertised before the start.
"I saw him in the bullpen and he was capable of throwing everything tonight with some innings," said Riggins, in his second season with the Florida State League club. "He had all his pitches as he warmed up -- threw his fastball, slider, changeup and curveball."
Pearson was charged with three runs -- two earned -- on five hits, including the first of two homers by Albert Baur. After getting two outs in the second inning, Pearson threw a wild pitch and, following a passed ball, was struck by Gaffney's liner. The hit scored a run and Pearson was forced to exit.
Before the diagnosis, Riggins was not concerned about the 6-foot-6, 245-pound hurler's durability.
"It is not an issue for me," the former Cincinnati pitching coach said. "He pitched last year fine and Spring Training was fine. It's amazing what the doctors can do right now. So [scouts have] done their homework on him. I saw him in Spring Training for the first time and everything looks great. If I didn't know [about the elbow surgery], I wouldn't have been able to tell. Our scouting system does their due diligence."
The No. 97 overall prospect was a first-round pick out of Junior College of Central Florida last year. This spring, he impressed evaluators on the back fields by pumping his upper-90s fastball and wipeout slider.
Riggins said he worked this spring with Pearson on sharpening what scouts already said was his best secondary offering.
"We've been playing catch with the slider and working with it for a while, just shortening the shape, making it shorter, more of a slider than a slurve," Riggins said. "His slider was a little too close to a curveball."
Pearson made just one start as a Florida International freshman in 2016 and transferred to JC of Central Florida, where he dominated as a starter, posting a 1.56 ERA with 118 strikeouts in 81 innings. That gave him a big bump in the eyes of scouts, but he really gained steam during a heavily scouted bullpen session in which he hit 102 mph in late May 2017.
The top-scale velocity didn't concern Riggins, who said Pearson does not have a maximum-effort delivery.
"A lot of guys are throwing harder now and everybody's looking for that velocity, but we take care," he said. "Arm-care programs are better and getting better all the time. He's a college guy -- if he was a high school guy and throwing that hard ... the younger they are, if they're throwing that hard, it's a concern. But he's worked to get to that level and his natural ability blossomed."
The Marauders' Cam Vieaux (3-0) earned the win, allowing three runs on five hits and two walks while striking out six over six innings. Matt Eckelman picked up his fourth save, working around a hit and a walk and fanning four over 1 2/3 scoreless frames.