Milwaukee Brewers: Why is Jimmy Nelson back on the Injured List?

Milwaukee Brewers starter Jimmy Nelson is back on the Injured List. What happened to Nelson, and when will he return?

The good news is that Jimmy Nelson finally returned to the Milwaukee Brewers this year. The bad news is that he was trying to work through an elbow issue the entire time. Wait. What? Why would the team allow Nelson to try to come back to the Majors with an injury?

When was Nelson hurt again?

Nelson has developed fluid around his right elbow, and it’s currently causing discomfort. However, it was revealed that the elbow issues started for Nelson in Spring Training. Apparently, he finished his rehab, and made it to the Majors with an elbow that was barking at him.

He was originally planned to start the 2019 season in Triple-A, but that plan was ditched when he had discomfort in his elbow. He was shut down for a few weeks after, and then started his season with the San Antonio Missions.

How did Nelson do this year?

After a layoff that lasted close to two years, Nelson worked 14 innings for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2019. He posted a 8.36 ERA with 14 walks allowed, two homers surrendered, and 15 strikeouts. In other words, he struggled, and absolutely should have been moved to the bullpen like he was.

This came after he posted a 3.75 ERA in 24 innings in Triple-A. He struck out 29, walked 12, and allowed three homers in his time with San Antonio.

It’s also worth noting that Nelson only averaged 92.1 MPH on his fastball. That’s down almost 2 MPH from his peak in 2017.

Is this completely irresponsible?

It sounded worse than it is.

The Milwaukee Brewers actually did this correctly with Nelson. He experienced discomfort, was shut down, tried again, and then was allowed to make his return. It was concerning to learn that Nelson had been dealing with an elbow issue since Spring Training and was still allowed to progress, but the team couldn’t do anything else with him. He wasn’t hurt enough to require surgery, but he wasn’t healthy enough to stay off the Injured List.

Nelson is expected to stay ‘shut down’ for at least a week before picking up a baseball again. Nelson believes he can pitch through this issue, and it looks like the Milwaukee Brewers are going to let him try. It doesn’t sound like he has a tear or a structural issue, so it doesn’t sound like it will get worse.

However, this sounds like a case of a team needing to protect a player from himself. Nelson name always comes up as one of the most competitive guys on the staff. It’s clear that he wants to throw even when his elbow is hurting. If manager Craig Counsell and GM David Stearns view Nelson as a long term option in the rotation, it may make more sense to leave him on the Injured List until he can throw discomfort-free. Let him work his way back again, and try to make it work in 2019 as a reliever, and then come back after another full off-season program to compete for a starting role.