On Wednesday night, Jimmy Nelson returned to the mound to a standing ovation for his first Major League start in 21 months. September 8th, 2017 was the date of his last start where he went 5 innings, gave up 0 runs and struck out 7. After sliding head first back to a base, Nelson tore his labrum and strained his rotator cuff on his pitching arm. It was unfortunate because 2017 was easily the best year of his professional career and he was starting to look like the ace fans wanted. Before he got injured that year, he started 29 games, pitched 175.1 innings all while having a 3.49 ERA. He won 12 decisions, lost 6, and had a SO/9 of 10.2. It was such a great year he even finished top 10 in the NL Cy Young Award voting. Before the injury, Nelson threw a power sinker and 4-seam fastball that both ranged into the mid-90s. He also added an outstanding curveball, hard slider, and cutting changeup.
Prior to his first big league start of 2019, Nelson pitched 5 games in AAA and looked solid enough to take the mound for the Brewers. He had a 3.75 ERA in 24 innings with 29 strikeouts. In a pregame interview before Wednesday, the 6’6” 250 pound monster described coming back to pitch like “being a kid waking up on Christmas morning.”
As he took the mound on his birthday against a Marlins team who entered the game last in runs and OPS, there was a buzz throughout Miller Park. The first batter he faced was former Brewer, Curtis Granderson, who reached first safely due to an error by Orlando Arcia. However, he was able to get the next batter, Garrett Cooper, to strike out looking. Nelson was able to get out of the inning relatively unphased but not before an unearned run came across the plate. The second inning showed what Jimmy can do when he’s clicking. He was able to go three up, three down with a strikeout sprinkled in there. The third inning is where Nelson got into major trouble. After giving up 2 walks and a double, the Brewer pitcher left a hanging curveball up in the zone that Brian Anderson mashed into left center for a grand slam. He was able to get out of the inning after that, but the damage was already done.
Jimmy Nelson’s Final stat line read, 3 innings pitched, 5 runs (4 earned), 3 walks and 2 strikeouts. In his return to the mound, Nelson struggled to command any of his off-speed pitches which makes sense for somebody who’s been out for 2 years. He threw 65 pitches but only 35 of them were strikes.
Brewer fans should not be discouraged by Nelson’s not-so-ideal return. His fastball ranged from 91-94 MPH, but that velocity will increase as well as his command of off-speed pitches. We here at Cream City Central are more than happy to have Jimmy Nelson back in the starting rotation. Before you know it, he will be back to the pitcher he was before the injury.