Milwaukee Brewers: Burnes optioned, Nelson to the bullpen

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - JUNE 20: Jimmy Nelson #52 of the Milwaukee Brewers pitches in the first inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Miller Park on June 20, 2019 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - JUNE 20: Jimmy Nelson #52 of the Milwaukee Brewers pitches in the first inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Miller Park on June 20, 2019 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

The Milwaukee Brewers announced a pair of moves before Saturday’s game. One affects the bullpen while the other alters the rotation, at least in the short-term

After Jimmy Nelson‘s most recent rough start, questions arose about what might happen to him going forward. That question was answered on Saturday with a few roster moves.

Of course with Gio Gonzalez not quite ready to return, that leaves a hole in the Milwaukee Brewers rotation. And with 15 games in the next 16 days, a fifth starter is definitely needed. A move to solve that problem was announced as well.

How has Nelson looked?

Nelson has pitched just 12 innings over three starts, compiling 9.75 ERA and a 2.167 WHIP. He does have 9.8 K/9 over that time, but a 13/10 K/B ratio to go along with it. He is also giving up 41% hard contact on his hits, which would be the highest of his career.

Nelson has shown flashes at times. In his start against the Giants he retired 11 batters in a row at one point before things fell apart late. On Thursday against the Reds he appeared to get back on track after getting beat up in the first inning, but then gave up a triple and a home run to back-to-back batters in the fifth on pitches that were served up on a platter.

Moving Nelson to the bullpen is likely a short-term solution to see if he can find his stuff in situations that don’t put the team in a big hole early. His command has been shaky at times, though, so his appearances may not be in high-leverage situations for now.

How about Burnes?

Corbin Burnes has continued to struggle in his own right. In 23 games, Burnes sports a 8.85 ERA and a 1.86 WHIP. He’s still finding a way to pile up strikeouts, currently placing second on the team with a 13.1 K/9. Unfortunately he also leads the team by quite a bit with 3.3 HR/9.

Burnes has been given time since being pulled from the rotation early this year to find the success he had last year as a reliever. But every time he seems to be turning a corner, such as the four consecutive scoreless outings he had from June 11th to June 18th, he gets beat up again like he did when he served up a deep two-run homer to Yasiel Puig on Friday.

Why Wilkerson?

Aaron Wilkerson has largely dominated Triple-A hitting with San Antonio, going 6-1 so far this year with a 1.79 ERA and a .954 WHIP. His ERA actually bottomed out at 0.40 at one point before he had his first bad game two starts ago. His most recent start was back to normal though – two earned runs and five hits given up over five innings.

This is Wilkerson’s second stint with the Milwaukee Brewers this season. In April he made three relief appearances and gave up six earned runs in 7 1/3 innings, though he entered with the team already losing in each occasion. Assuming he’s in Milwaukee to start, he will make his fourth career start in the big leagues.

Wilkerson is likely a stopgap solution for the rotation until Gonzalez is ready to return. Nelson just hasn’t quite shown that he is ready to step into the rotation and Wilkerson’s success as a starter with the Missions makes him the more intriguing starting option at this point. And with Brewers starters sporting a 6.65 ERA in June, worst in the National League, the team can’t afford to keep Nelson among that group.

Meanwhile, the decision to move Nelson to the bullpen instead of straight up swapping him for Wilkerson is slightly surprising considering the fact that he has started 107 of his 112 games in the majors. But that may speak more to the fact of just how much Burnes has struggled this year. 23 games is now long enough to know that Burnes may need more seasoning down in the minors.

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Currently in the middle of a five-game losing streak and having lost eight of their last ten, the Milwaukee Brewers need to turn things around heading into the All Star break. These may not be the last moves that are made, but hopefully they are the start of better days for the Crew.