Milwaukee Brewers: Jimmy Nelson takes a huge step forward

Matthew Dewoskin
MILWAUKEE, WI - SEPTEMBER 01: Jimmy Nelson #52 of the Milwaukee Brewers pitches during the first inning against the Washington Nationals at Miller Park on September 01, 2017 in Milwaukee, WI. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - SEPTEMBER 01: Jimmy Nelson #52 of the Milwaukee Brewers pitches during the first inning against the Washington Nationals at Miller Park on September 01, 2017 in Milwaukee, WI. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images) /
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Jimmy Nelson may not start the year on the Milwaukee Brewers’ 25-man roster, but he may not stay away for long. Find out why below…

Milwaukee Brewers starter Jimmy Nelson had only thrown one inning in live action this Spring coming into Saturday’s split squad game against the Colorado Rockies. Nelson had experienced discomfort in his surgically repaired shoulder earlier in the Spring. But he took some time off, tossed a few batting practice sessions, logged a few simulated innings, and generally worked his way back to in-game action. It was a surprise to see Nelson toss 40 pitches, but the results were an even bigger surprise.

What happened on Saturday?

Nelson entered the game at the start of the seventh inning against the Rockies. He logged three scoreless innings, and tossed 40 pitches in his longest outing to date. Nelson gave up two hits, one unearned run, zero walks, and struck out four. He recorded three outs via ground balls, and one through the air. However, the results weren’t the most important part of Nelson’s day.

What was the most important aspect of today was that Nelson was reportedly hitting 95 MPH on the radar gun.

Why is velocity important?

While elbow surgery is no longer a death sentence to a pitcher’s career, shoulder injuries are still a bit of a mystery. It’s common for pitchers to have Tommy John surgery and come back stronger than they were before, but that’s rarely the case with shoulder surgeries.

The closest comparisons to what Nelson had done are Brandon Webb and Erik Bedard. Webb was a former Cy Young Award winner, and Bedard was viewed as a starter with a very bright future. Both had their careers derailed by shoulder surgery, and were never able to return to form after going under the knife. Both were unable to generate the same velocity on their fastball post-surgery.

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However, the fact that Nelson took a full year off to get his shoulder right could play a large role in his recovery. He’s already throwing as hard as he was before he needed surgery, he still has swing-and-miss stuff, and the fact that he’s generating ground ball outs is also a huge positive. Nelson is also already up to 40 pitches, which means he’s about a month away from being able to throw the 90-to-100 pitches that a starter is expected to. A mid-to-late April return looks a lot more likely today than it did a week ago.

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