Milwaukee Brewers: Has Jimmy Nelson Turned a Corner?

Matt Carroll
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 15: Jimmy Nelson #52 of the Milwaukee Brewers pitches during the first inning against the San Francisco Giants at Oracle Park on June 15, 2019 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 15: Jimmy Nelson #52 of the Milwaukee Brewers pitches during the first inning against the San Francisco Giants at Oracle Park on June 15, 2019 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images) /
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Roster expansion day comes for all MLB teams on September 1st, just nine days from now. One Milwaukee Brewers pitcher, again trying to work his way back from injury, just might be on pace to become a big contributor down the stretch.

June 5th, 2019 was an exciting day for Milwaukee Brewers fans. It was the day that Jimmy Nelson would finally make his first appearance after a long and arduous return from injury that hadn’t seen him pitch in an Major League game since late 2017.

It didn’t go exactly as fans might have hoped as Nelson gave up four earned runs in just three innings, but it was a start. It was time to see what the big right-hander could contribute for the 2019 season at a time when the team needed pitching reinforcements.

The situation didn’t get much better from there, though. A combination of rust and control issues saw Nelson give up at least four earned runs in three of four appearances on his way to a 8.36 ERA. On June 28th, three days after that fourth outing it was announced that Nelson was headed to the 10-day Injured List with a right elbow effusion. It was time to work back to the big leagues again.

How has Nelson progressed since then?

Nelson didn’t pitch again until a July 21st rehab assignment with the Class-A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, almost a month after hitting the IL. He gave up two hits and an earned run over one inning of relief and was moved to the Triple-A San Antonio Missions for his next outing. He proceeded to give up eight runs in 3 1/3 innings across three games.

Things have clicked in a big way since then, however. In his last six appearances for the Missions, Nelson has given up just two hits, five walks, and an earned run in 10 2/3 innings with five of the six outings being scoreless. He’s also piled up a whopping 21 strikeouts over that time period. Those numbers equate to a 0.84 ERA, a 0.656 WHIP, and a .057 batting average against.

Most importantly, Nelson seems to have regained much of the control that was absent upon his initial return. His four games with the Brewers saw him throw just 54% of his pitches for strikes while his combined games in the minors before this recent stretch were just under 60%.

In this six game run, though, Nelson has thrown 104 of his 154 pitches for strikes, which comes in at 67.5%. All of this is in a small sample size, of course. But it looks much more like the Jimmy Nelson of old than the version from earlier this year did.

So then add him back to the roster now!

Not so fast.

While Nelson was in the middle of his rehab, the club transferred him from the 10-day IL to the 60-day IL, a move that freed up his spot from the 40-man roster and allowed the Milwaukee Brewers to add someone in his place. That means he’s not eligible to be reinstated until next week, which just so happens to be right before September call-ups.

Also, to reinstate him means adding him back to the 40-man roster, which means someone will have to be designated for assignment. And with Brent Suter potentially also looking to be reinstated from the 60-day IL soon based off of his recent performance, the Brewers may have some tough decisions to make.

That said, the Brewers could certainly use help in the bullpen, whether that help comes from Nelson, Suter, or both. Milwaukee’s bullpen currently sports an ERA of 6.55 for the month of August, which is second to last in the National League and right above the lowly Marlins. That’s not going to cut it for a team trying to claw their way into a final playoff spot.

Next. Is Devin Williams an impact arm?. dark

No one thought that Nelson’s road back to the majors would be easy and his first outings this year showed that there were still obstacles to be overcome. But if this recent small stretch is any sign, it soon might finally be time to see the old flamethrower that Milwaukee Brewers fans know and love.

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