The shoulder procedure performed today on Brewers righty Jimmy Nelson ended up being somewhat more extensive than had been hoped. While there was optimism that surgeons would not find a need to repair Nelson’s labrum, they did end up needing to do some tissue work, GM David Stearns told reporters including MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy (via Twitter).
As a result, it is now expected that Nelson will miss “a chunk” of the 2018 season, per Stearns. Just how long the key righty will be sidelined isn’t yet known and will surely depend upon his rehab progress. Regardless, Milwaukee will need to plan on alternatives to fill the rotation to start the year.
Losing Nelson for any chunk of time constitutes a blow for the Brewers, putting a damper on an otherwise exciting season. The club has plenty of intriguing young pitchers, and could still decide to retain Matt Garza for depth, but Nelson had emerged as a force and can’t realistically be replaced. It’s possible that the Brewers will still mostly look to internal options to fill out the staff early next season, though it’s also conceivable that the injury could spur Stearns to look into ways to bolster the rotation over the offseason.
Unfortunately, the news also clouds Nelson’s long-term outlook. Labrum tears are among the most worrying injuries that a pitcher can suffer, as we discussed recently with regard to Angels right-hander Alex Meyer — who is expected to miss a full year of action. There is perhaps some added optimism here, McCalvy notes on Twitter, because the injury occurred to a different area of the labrum than is typically the case for tears caused by throwing.
Despite the unfortunate news, Nelson should take home a significant first-time arbitration salary after topping 170 innings in each of the past three seasons — and carrying a 3.49 ERA with 199 strikeouts in 2017. Of course, time missed in the season to come will reduce his ability to earn in the future, though at this point the focus will be on simply getting the 28-year-old back to full health.