Milwaukee Brewers starter Jimmy Nelson has yet to throw off a mound this year. Is he better off sitting out this season and trying again next year?
Jimmy Nelson damaged his right rotator cuff and his right labrum sliding into first on a pick off play last year. Since then, he underwent exploratory surgery to repair the damage and has slowly started to work his way back to the mound. Milwaukee Brewers GM David Stearns announced that Nelson is likely to return around September. But is Nelson better off taking the full year off and coming back next Spring?
How has Nelson’s rehab gone?
Slowly? Well, slower than expected. The original prognosis had Nelson returning around June or July. He was declared ahead of schedule in April, and it was thought he could throw off a mound in April.
In mid-May, Nelson was advised by his doctor to take a 10-day break from throwing, and restart his long toss program. He’s still working through his program, and he’s yet to throw off a mound.
Why not declare him ‘out’ for the year?
The answer to this one is simple. The Milwaukee Brewers aren’t sure if he’s really out yet.
He could wake up tomorrow, start flying through his rehab, and head to a Minor League assignment before August. He could also wake up tomorrow and need to take another 10-day break. There was a great deal of uncertainty around Nelson’s injury when it first occurred. That continued to the surgery, and has continued through his rehab. The fact that the team has never set a specific time table indicates how little they really know about his rehab process.
Are there advantages to packing it in?
Well, it would allow Nelson the entire off-season to build up arm strength and come back fully ready for Spring Training in 2019. He also wouldn’t be tossed into the thick of a pennant race and have to throw meaningful innings down the stretch. Shutting Nelson down now would avoid the risk of re-injury and wouldn’t put Nelson in the uncomfortable position of returning to the Milwaukee Brewers while they’re trying to nail down a playoff spot.
However, let’s not forget how competitive Nelson is. If the choice were up to Nelson, he’d probably have started a rehab assignment by now.
Do the Brewers ‘need’ Nelson?
What the Milwaukee Brewers need right now is Nelson from the first half of last year. They need the guy who was emerging as a legitimate top starter to lead the rotation. They don’t need a starter who rushed through a few Minor League games, returned to the team before he was ready, and gets bombed in September.
During the past off-season the Milwaukee Brewers operated as if Nelson would return by June at the latest. The only rotation depth they added was Jhoulys Chacin and Wade Miley. That was clearly a miscalculation. They do need Nelson to return, but the need him as close to 100% as possible. If that means they have to wait until 2019, that’s what they have to do.