Dodgers right-hander Jimmy Nelson has been shut down for the time being after experiencing a setback following yesterday’s bullpen session, tweets Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register. Nelson has been dealing with back and groin pain early in camp and felt renewed discomfort in his groin after the session. There’s no timetable set for him at present.
Nelson, 30, was a known health risk at the time he signed a heavily incentive-laden deal — a reality that was reflected both in his relatively modest $1.25MM guarantee and the $1MM bonus he’d receive simply for making the Opening Day roster. Nelson’s contract also contains $500K bonuses for spending 45 and 90 days on the active roster, as well as another $1.5MM of unlockable bonuses based on innings pitched. The deal’s low-cost, $2MM team option would become a $5MM mutual option if Nelson is on the mound enough, and the base of that option can also rise based on his innings totals.
Suffice it to say, the Dodgers knew that Nelson was a risky but high-upside signing when handing out that $1.25MM guarantee. The right-hander didn’t pitch at all in 2018 due to late-2017 shoulder surgery, and he was slowed by elbow and shoulder troubles in 2019. Overall, he’s pitched just 22 MLB innings since undergoing surgery in Sept. 2017.
A healthy Nelson, though, is a highly intriguing addition to any pitching staff. During that 2017 campaign, he racked up 175 2/3 innings of 3.49 ERA ball (3.05 FIP) with 10.2 K/9, 2.5 BB/9 and 0.82 HR/9. A former second-round pick and top 100 MLB prospect, Nelson has a strong pedigree, terrific numbers in the upper minors and, in 2017, looked to be emerging as a high-quality arm with the Brewers.
Whether he’ll deliver on any of that potential with the Dodgers remains to be seen. For now, he’ll focus on rehabbing what he and the club hope to be minor issues in an effort to contribute in any way possible with his new club. The Dodgers currently boast a deep rotation mix with Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, David Price, Alex Wood and Julio Urias likely in the top five. Ross Stripling, and top-notch prospects Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin are among the plentiful depth options L.A. has cultivated, although May has been slowed by some injury troubles of his own and hasn’t thrown since the first day of camp. As such, Nelson seemed likelier to emerge as a bullpen option, but he’ll need to get back up to strength before he’s an option in either role.