It has been 13 months since Jimmy Nelson suffered a brutal shoulder injury while running on the bases during his start against the Cubs on September 8th, 2017. The right-hander’s rotator cuff, labrum, and shoulder capsule all needed to be surgically repaired, and the recovery and rehab kept him on the shelf for the entire 2018 season. Fortunately, it looks like we should be able to count on a return to action by Nelson next spring:
There are still unknowns ahead, but Brewers GM David Stearns said this of Jimmy Nelson: “His formal rehab is complete. He has returned to pitching. That is a great thing to say."— Adam McCalvy (@AdamMcCalvy) October 6, 2018
#Brewers Jimmy Nelson feels good about progress after year of rehabbing shoulder surgery: “It’s a nice box to check off to be cleared as healthy and not be a ‘rehabber,’ basically. I know what I have to do and how to do it. I’m looking forward to how I come into next season.”— Tom (@Haudricourt) October 7, 2018
Nelson is gearing up for what should be a “relatively normal offseason” and has rejoined the team so that he can be along for the ride during the playoff run. Per Haudrictourt, Jimmy never did get to pitch in an actual game situation before the end of his throwing program, as rain ruined a scheduled appearance in the fall instructional league. But he did face hitters in a simulated game setting.
“I was happy with the command and movement. My offseason will be relatively normal now. Either way, the amount of work I do in the offseason is pretty high.” - Jimmy Nelson
Nelson was in the midst of a breakout season in 2017, which made his injury that much more devastating. In his age-28 season, Jimmy had worked 175.1 innings with a 3.49 ERA while averaging 10.2 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9, with Deserved Run Average viewing his work as 30% better than league average. Unfortunately, the extent of the repairs to his shoulder make it hard to predict what he might look like when he finally does return to game action.
The Brewers have proven that they can do plenty of winning even without a prototypical “ace” at the top of their rotation, going 96-67 this season on their way to an NL Central title. So even if Nelson isn’t able to come back and be that same dominant workhorse, there are still a variety of ways that he can contribute within the pitching system that Milwaukee has developed and deployed at the big league level. A multi-inning relief role or a spot as a tandem starter might even be a more preferable way to ease Jimmy back into the mix after he ultimately goes at least 18 months in between MLB appearances.
Nelson spent his first season of arbitration eligibility on the DL while drawing a $3.7 mil salary, so it’s likely that he’ll return at a similar price in 2019. He turns 30 next June and has two more seasons of club control remaining before he hits free agency. For what it’s worth, he also has two minor league options remaining.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball Prospectus