Word came out yesterday that Brewers' starting pitcher Matt Garza, who is on the DL with a left oblique strain, will miss more than the minimum 15 days. How long Garza will actually be out is uncertain. He missed seven weeks at the start of 2013 with a similar injury, but the Brewers have been vehement that this malady is not as severe.
The repercussions of Garza being out longer obviously include Mike Fiers being penciled into the rotation while Garza remains injured. Fiers started for Milwaukee on Saturday, pitching eight innings of three-hit ball against a tough Dodgers lineup. The only run against him came on an Adrian Gonzalez solo home run. Fiers also struck out five batters.
What happens if Fiers continues to pitch well? Could he push Jimmy Nelson for the Brewers 5th starter spot?
Nelson, of course, is the more heralded of the two. He has better 'stuff' in baseball-speak. More natural talent, probably. He was, after all, a top-50 prospect. Still, though, Nelson being a better prospect doesn't mean he's a better pitcher right now, necessarily. And with the Brewers obviously needing to win now, Fiers may have an opportunity to overtake Nelson despite a lower ceiling.
Assumedly, Nelson would have the leg up in any competition. He was, after all, originally chosen over Fiers to join the rotation when Marco Estrada decided to pursue his dream of building rockets to more efficiently lift baseball's into space. Nelson has also been very good since being called up: He had one bad start against the Cardinals on July 12, but has four quality starts in six attempts. In his other non-quality outing he pitched 5.2 innings of shutout baseball.
Fiers, however, does have more experience than Nelson in the majors. He was a fantastic surprise in 2012 before losing most of 2013 to injury. Nelson and Fiers were both fantastic in Triple-A this year, as well.
It will probably take a lot for Fiers to overtake Nelson as fifth starter. Getting Nelson experience while also having him make a positive impact for the team is a huge win for the Brewers. Still, if Nelson falters a bit and Fiers continues to show that old early-2013 mojo, there may be a competition brewing. It's unlikely that Fiers usurps Nelson, but with the Brewers in win-now mode, they may go with whichever pitcher shows the most while Garza is out.