On a struggling Brewers club, the young right-hander offers hope.
Whoever thought Jimmy Nelson would be the Brewers’ best starter this season, please raise your hand. Nobody? Okay.
While I don’t want to overreact to one week of the season, it’s not an exaggeration to say the Milwaukee Brewers have greatly struggled. It’s also not an exaggeration to say Jimmy Nelson shined in his season debut. This is all the more positive because the veterans for the Brewers — Kyle Lohse and Matt Garza — greatly struggled in their season debuts.
Nelson enters his first full season in the majors as a relative unknown to those outside of Milwaukee. He struggled in 2014 (2-9, 4.93 ERA), but due to injuries he had to be called up before the organization would have liked. He showed some promise, however, and it became apparent that the Brewers have faith in him becoming an important member of their rotation. When general manager Doug Melvin was flirting with the opportunity of trading for David Price at the deadline last July, he reportedly halted negotiations when it was clear that the Rays would only do it if Nelson was involved.
David Price. If that is not faith in a young pitcher, then I don’t know what is.
On Saturday at least, that faith paid off. The Crew’s fifth starter went seven innings and allowed only two hits to a talented (but McCutchen-less) Pittsburgh lineup, also tallying a career-high nine strikeouts. Perhaps most encouraging was that Nelson managed seven strong on only 88 pitches, perhaps evidence that he can go deep into games and save a questionable bullpen.
Nelson’s next start will be an interesting one. Roenicke has him scheduled to pitch Friday against the same Pittsburgh team he just dominated. I am curious to see how the Pirates adjust. It’ll be an undoubtedly better lineup with McCutchen hitting third.
Nelson is essentially a two-pitch guy, but he does a good job of disguising this because of how good his slider is. He is able to do different things with it, and he will need to in order to drop the .309 average right-handers hit against him in 2014.
All that having been said, Nelson is off to a great start in stabilizing the back of Milwaukee’s rotation. Many analysts believe that Lohse, Garza, and Peralta will perform as expected, and that the real question marks on the team are Fiers, and especially Nelson. So far he’s proving he belongs.
Edited by Sam Wittenstein.
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