The Brewers are deciding how to proceed with righty Jimmy Nelson after he completed his fourth rehab appearance at Triple-A today. Skipper Craig Counsell has suggested the club would reach its decision on how to utilize Nelson after today’s outing, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel notes on Twitter.
Nelson didn’t exactly finish with a bang. As Jerry Briggs of MiLB.com tweets, the rehabbing righty pitched fine until he was undone by a sloppy fifth inning. In total, Nelson has thrown 19 innings at Triple-A, allowing ten earned runs while compiling 22 strikeouts against nine walks. That certainly isn’t a dominant performance, but it’s encouraging to see that he has been generally effective against high-level competition.
It seems likely that Nelson will celebrate his upcoming thirtieth birthday in the majors. Though he still has time on his rehab clock — having begun his assignment on May 5th, his thirty days won’t expire until June 3rd — Counsell says the time has come for a decision after a long road back. The next pitch Nelson throws in the big leagues will be his first since late in the 2017 season, as he has been working back from labrum surgery since going down with injury late in what had been a stellar campaign.
Whether Nelson will work as a starter or reliever remains to be seen. The Milwaukee rotation isn’t desperate for reinforcement but also doesn’t have much in the way of roadblocks. Chase Anderson and Jhoulys Chacin appear to be most at risk among the current starters, but there are reasons also to keep both in a starting capacity.
In a sense, the decision seems to be more about Nelson than it is the rest of the staff. If the club thinks he’s back to anything approaching his former self and can handle a starter’s workload (even a reduced version thereof), then there’s little doubt the space can be found. Anderson hasn’t worked deep in games and could be moved back to a long relief capacity, joining a few other converted starters in an interesting bullpen mix.
Utilizing Nelson as a reliever would be something else entirely. Whether the lack of routine would be problematic is tough to guess, but he’d obviously be tasked with throwing fewer innings after a lengthy layoff.
No matter the initial decision, the Brewers will surely keep their options open over the course of the season and beyond. Nelson is earning $3.7MM this year with one final season of arbitration eligibility still to come thereafter.