Nelson needs to 'pause' for elbow soreness

Position players on roster all but set; Tonkin signs Minor League deal

March 23rd, 2019

PHOENIX -- Brewers right-hander Jimmy Nelson reported some elbow soreness after pitching into the fourth inning of a Minor League game on Thursday and was to be examined by the team's head physician on Friday, said manager Craig Counsell, who expressed optimism that the setback was not serious. 

"It's not going to be a restart or anything, but we're going to have to pause for a little bit here," Counsell said. "We'll probably get a course of action during the day today. But he's going to pause a little bit. ...

"We're still hopeful that his start of the Triple-A season is not going to be affected by this. That's kind of how I'd frame it for you. We might take a step back in these last two weeks of Spring Training, but right now I think it's likely that when the San Antonio season starts, that the calendar we had [set] can still happen."

After a 6-4 win over the Reds at American Family Fields of Phoenix, Counsell said he had yet to receive an update about Nelson's visit with Dr. William Raasch. 

The hope was that Nelson is merely experiencing the sort of soreness common for starting pitchers as they build up stamina for the regular season. As of Friday morning, Counsell indicated that the club did not believe additional testing, such as an MRI scan, was necessary. 

Nelson missed all of 2018 while rehabbing from October 2017 shoulder surgery. His fastball sat in the 91-93 mph range during the first three innings of his start in an advanced Class A game against the Dodgers at American Family Fields of Phoenix on Thursday and mostly registered 89 mph during a fourth inning of work cut short when Nelson reached his pitch limit for the frame. 

Roster moves

The Brewers said they intended to option utility men Tyler Saladino and Cory Spangenberg to Triple-A San Antonio to start the season and informed outfielder Ben Gamel he'd made the team, meaning the Major League position player group was all but set for Opening Day. 

The Brewers plan to open the regular season with 12 position players, including a four-man bench of Gamel, utility man Hernan Perez, first baseman/outfielder/left-handed power bat Eric Thames and backup catcher Manny Pina

"We're healthy in that group, which is a good thing. It's a strong group, and it's a tough group to crack right now," said Counsell. "In the end, it was kind of a decision of where do we want protection on the roster? That's kind of what this came down to. And with Ben, we gained the outfield protection."

When Spangenberg signed as a free agent on a one-year deal, it was to compete for the second-base job. That changed when the Brewers re-signed Mike Moustakas early in Spring Training. 

"I'll just continue to go about my day's work and continue to make strides," Spangenberg said. "It all depends on injuries, how people are playing. There's nothing you can do about it. Keep your head down, keep working."

The Brewers also advised reliever Jay Jackson and catcher Tuffy Gosewisch that they would be assigned to San Antonio to begin the season. 

Another catcher, Erik Kratz, remains in limbo. He was informed at the start of Spring Training that he was the No. 3 catcher behind Yasmani Grandal and Pina. 

"It's a waiting game for Erik right now," Counsell said. "It's not a fun waiting game, but he's in a waiting game right now. We talked to Erik yesterday."

Last call

• The Brewers signed right-handed reliever Michael Tonkin to a Minor League deal on Friday. He pitched in the Majors for Minnesota from 2013-17 before spending last season in Japan. Tonkin had been in the Rangers' camp this spring. 

• The flags flew at half-staff Friday and the Brewers and Reds had a moment of silence to honor Phoenix Police Officer Paul Rutherford, 51, who was struck by a car and killed Thursday on Indian School Rd. at 75th Ave., 16 blocks from American Family Fields of Phoenix.

• It was futile to draw any conclusions from Zach Davies' start against the Reds, in which he allowed three first-inning runs before settling into a 5 1/3-inning outing in which he yielded four runs (three earned) on six hits. Davies will face the Reds again in Cincinnati in 10 days, this time for real.

"They put all their guys in there because they wanted to see me," Davies said. "I'm not going to show them anything. I probably threw 80 fastballs and cutters today."

Said Counsell: "I actually think an outing like that can help you. He did throw a lot of fastballs today, and getting a good feel for that pitch and locking it in -- fastball command is so important to him."

Up next

The Brewers have another set of split-squad games on Saturday, with Junior Guerra starting at home against the Royals at 3:05 p.m. CT and Burch Smith starting on the road in Surprise, Ariz., against the Rangers at 2:05 p.m. CT. The home game marks the final TV (Fox Sports Wisconsin) and radio (Brewers Radio Network) broadcasts of the spring. The remaining three games will be available via webcasts.