Milwaukee Brewers: Jimmy Nelson Reinstated, Optioned to Triple-A

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 22: Jimmy Nelson #52 of the Milwaukee Brewers pitches against the San Francisco Giants in the first inning at AT&T Park on August 22, 2017 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 22: Jimmy Nelson #52 of the Milwaukee Brewers pitches against the San Francisco Giants in the first inning at AT&T Park on August 22, 2017 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

Manager Craig Counsell had previously stated that a decision would need to be made about what to do with Jimmy Nelson after Thursday night’s rehab start. The Milwaukee Brewers announced that decision today.

The way Jimmy Nelson had been progressing through his time down with the Triple-A San Antonio Missions, it looked like Nelson might be close to rejoining the Milwaukee Brewers. However, a hiccup in Thursday night’s start, as well as other factors, might have prompted the decision that was made on Friday.

The Brewers will keep Nelson in Triple-A but his rehab stint is now over. It’s just a regular stint in Triple-A now.

How did Nelson do in the minors?

Jimmy Nelson’s numbers across his rehab starts have been mediocre, which is to be expected from a pitcher working their way back from injury, especially one as complicated as Nelson’s. In four games (three starts) Nelson has a 4.74 ERA and has given up three home runs.

Some underlying starts are still encouraging. In 19 innings, Nelson has struck out 22 (a 10.4 K/9) and walked just eight. His 1.26 WHIP is solid as is holding opposing hitters to just a .214 batting average.

In his first two appearances, Nelson looked like a pitcher still getting back into the swing of things. He gave up three runs apiece in those two games, one a 3 1/3-inning relief outing where he also gave up three hits and four walks, and the other a 5 1/3-inning start where he gave up two long balls in the first inning but just one more run the rest of the way.

Nelson’s third game looked like everything was snapping right into place – 5 2/3 innings of 3-hit, shutout baseball that also featured eight strikeouts to just one walk. Thursday night was trending the same way as gave up no hits or runs over the first four innings of the game. But he would ultimately be pulled in the fifth after being tagged for 4 runs off of five hits (one of which a two-run homer) and a walk.

Why not call him up anyway?

Nelson may have been about to earn the long-awaited reinstatement back to the big leagues before his start ended the way it did on Thursday night. But the way he got knocked around in the end may have been just concerning enough where the team wanted to leave him at Triple-A San Antonio to get some more seasoning.

Regardless, the rotation is in good hands until he gets back. Despite being roughed up for the first time, Zach Davies still has the best ERA among starters. Jhoulys Chacin is known to improve as the season progresses and won’t be going anywhere soon, same with Gio Gonzalez who wasn’t exactly signed to be moved to the bullpen right away. Brandon Woodruff may be the hottest arm in the rotation right now.

Chase Anderson would potentially be the one starter who Nelson would be most likely to replace, especially since he started the year in the bullpen. But Anderson came back strong from his IL stint, giving up just an unearned run over four strong innings in Saturday’s game against the Braves. He’s only given up two earned runs total in his three starts so far this year.

That would only leave the bullpen for Nelson to join. However, the team had already made it clear that when Nelson rejoins Milwaukee, it will almost certainly be as a starter, not as a reliever.

The Brewers have the luxury of a starting rotation that is currently functioning at a high level. They can afford to give Nelson extra time in the minors to make sure everything feels absolutely ready to go before calling him up to the majors. It’s that performance from the rotation recently that has given the Brewers enough confidence in them to give Nelson a little more time.

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Nelson’s road to recovery has been long and both he and the fans are excited to see him throw his first pitch of 2019 in a Brewers uniform. But while the big league pitching staff is holding strong, it only make sense to let Nelson get to the point where there’s no doubt he can contribute at the level the Milwaukee Brewers need this year.