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Nelson on track for spring after year of rehab

Brewers righty 'knocking off some rust' in return from shoulder surgery
MLB.com @AdamMcCalvy

MILWAUKEE -- What's atop Jimmy Nelson's holiday wish list?

"Being a real person again in Spring Training," he said.

MILWAUKEE -- What's atop Jimmy Nelson's holiday wish list?

"Being a real person again in Spring Training," he said.

The Brewers right-hander, who missed all of 2018 while rehabbing from major surgery on his right shoulder, updated his progress during an MLB Network appearance Friday morning. Nelson, 29, escaped rehab protocol in the fall after completing a series of live batting-practice sessions in the instructional league, and said "so far, so good" about his offseason. He is expected to be full-go in the spring when the Brewers report to a renovated Maryvale Baseball Park.

He will attempt to join a deep group of Brewers starting pitchers that includes Jhoulys Chacin, Chase Anderson and Zach Davies, along with other options such as Corbin Burnes, Freddy Peralta, Brandon Woodruff and No. 16 prospect Adrian Houser. Junior Guerra (who like Davies and Nelson is arbitration-eligible) is another option. Brent Suter is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery but could be back for the final two months next season.

"I've been doing some stuff to get ready for a throwing program here in a couple of weeks," Nelson said. "So far, so good. Just knocking off some rust. I'm excited to get back to throwing and kind of go into Spring Training with some sense of normalcy."

That sense escaped him in 2018, when Nelson entered the year way ahead of schedule, only to miss the full season when his right shoulder needed more time to recover.

Asked how Nelson fits into the team's 2019 plans, general manager David Stearns said, "The first thing with Jimmy is making sure he's healthy. That's always going to be the first thing with any player coming back from an extended rehab and the complexity of injury that he had. He is going to go through a normal offseason. He will begin to ramp up his throwing program at the appropriate time like he has done in seasons past, and we will see where he is when he gets to Spring Training.

"If he is still pain-free and feels good, then we will ramp him up accordingly. If we feel like we need to slow it down a little bit and go at a more modest pace, then we'll do that. The goal here is and always has been to get a healthy Jimmy Nelson back on a Major League mound, and we are focused on the health rather than the timeline. ... We know that when Jimmy is right, he is one of the best pitchers in the league."

Video: Jimmy Nelson talks rehab and 2019 return on Hot Stove

Nelson was 12-6 with a 3.49 ERA before injuring the shoulder in his 29th start of 2017, a Brewers win over the Cubs at Wrigley Field. He struck out 199 batters in 175 1/3 innings that year.

Rehab brought a different kind of test.

"Oh, man. That's something people talk a lot about with injuries, but you truly never know what it's like until you go through it," Nelson said on MLB Network. "I've always considered myself a pretty mentally strong person, but this whole process has been something that challenged me in multiple ways."

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.

Milwaukee Brewers, Jimmy Nelson