When Jimmy Nelson was recalled from Triple-A Nashville to pitch Saturday, most Milwaukee Brewers fans thought he would then become a permanent fixture in the rotation. Fast forward a few hours and the Brewers organization is left with the same questions they had when they pulled SP Marco Estrada from the rotation.
Nelson, who many thought would be a bright spot in the rotation after his success in the hitter-friendly PCL, has been a mixed bag so far for the Brew crew. After a very good start in May that saw him fire 5.2 scoreless innings, his start on Saturday was just plain awful. He allowed eight runs (six earned) on eight hits, two walks and five strikeouts in just 4.1 innings. He also hit a batter in the game.
That stat line, as bad as it looks, could have been much worse. The Brewers saved his bacon at times with very good defense in the infield, the error that cost him two runs early notwithstanding. Additionally, he was granted some good fortune when pitcher Adam Wainwright came up in the third with runners on the corners and two outs. Nelson struck him out, putting an end to a what could have been a disastrous inning.
There is a lot to like about Nelson long term; he throws a mid-90s fastball, has good command most games, and he knows how to attack hitters and get them out. Today however, he was very wild, often missing high with his fastball and hanging his breaking balls over the middle of the plate.
It is clear that he needs more time in Triple-A. Thrusting him into the rotation is too much pressure to put on him right away. He needs to be eased into facing MLB hitters, just as many other young pitching prospects are. You don’t ease a young kid into the Major Leagues by throwing his feet to the fire in the middle of a tight playoff race.
The last thing you want to do if you are the Brewers is to put too much on his plate too quickly, destroy his confidence, and risk stunting his long-term growth. Milwaukee is much better off leaving him down in Nashville, thereby allowing him to work on his mechanics.
The Brewers need him to be their ace of the future. The organization can’t risk ruining his future potential by allowing him to stay with the big league club. His time will come soon, but he is not yet ready for primetime.