Inbox: What's the latest on Nelson's recovery?

Beat reporter Adam McCalvy answers fans' questions

August 13th, 2018
Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Jimmy Nelson throws against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning of a baseball game Friday, Sept. 8, 2017, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)Nam Y. Huh/AP

What is the real situation with Jimmy Nelson? There is an unusual silence about his progress. Is his career over with the Brewers?
-- Jim R., Milwaukee

There is no unusual silence, there's no obfuscation, there's no conspiracy. There is a tendency not to read anything other than the headlines, so let's start with Nelson and get ourselves a headline.
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I equate what happened to Nelson over the winter to what happened to the Brewers' bullpen early in the season: To some degree, he was a victim of his own early success. Nelson had three different major repairs in his shoulder, and surgeries like that typically take a year. But the Brewers never shared a timeline with the public, and Nelson projected the idea that his injury was different since one of those repairs -- to the labrum -- was in the front of the joint instead of the back, where repetitive-use injuries occur. That gave him better odds of a complete recovery, Nelson said the doctors told him.
Then Nelson went home for the winter and rehabbed like crazy, changing his diet and spending hours a day in a hyperbaric chamber -- and got himself way ahead of schedule. That led to all kinds of optimism that he would stay way ahead of schedule and pitch for the Brewers sometime in the middle of the season.
Well, it didn't happen. The shoulder didn't cooperate, and here he is in mid-August, still (as far as we know) throwing his hybrid mound sessions. He's throwing from a mound, but he's not exactly pitching from a mound. Here's how it looked on July 31 at Dodger Stadium, when Nelson was cleared to throw breaking balls for the first time.

I was surprised by how much he was putting behind the baseball. Nelson was encouraged, too. But in terms of getting back into a Major League game, he remains where he has been since Spring Training: Until that shoulder is ready for full-blown bullpen sessions, the Brewers can't put a timeline on him.
So I'm convinced no one is hiding anything, and there's no "real story." It's just that he's ready to pitch when he's ready to pitch.

I don't hate this idea. If it happens, it would be in September when rosters are expanded, so the Brewers would have total flexibility with when to use him. It could be a nice way to send him into the offseason feeling like he's back to being a baseball player.
But again, the shoulder has to be 100 percent first.

Related

Ninety is on the high end if we're talking about simply getting into the National League Wild Card Game, but you're right that they will need to solve the NL Central to get where they want to go. The Brewers are 2-8 against the Pirates (nine games remaining), 3-8 against the Cubs (eight games remaining, including five on the road beginning Tuesday afternoon), 7-6 against the Cardinals (six games remaining) and 7-3 against the Reds (nine games remaining). The only other games are at Washington and at home against San Francisco and Detroit.
Is five over .500 possible? The "nays" will point to the fact that besides going 3-0 in March and 19-8 in May, the Brewers are 45-46 this season. But the "ayes" might get comfort in the fact that nine of those losses to the Cubs and Pirates came in two disastrous series on the road -- one in April at frigid Wrigley Field in which both teams struggled to score, and one just before the All-Star break at PNC Park in which the Brewers were out of gas at the end of 21 games in 20 days and played terribly. One could argue that those circumstances made those two series outliers.
We'll see.
Just for the record, since the Wild Card Game was introduced, here are the NL teams and their win totals:
2017: D-backs (93) vs. Rockies (87)
2016: Mets (87) vs. Giants (87)
2015: Pirates (98) vs. Cubs (97)
2014: Pirates (88) vs. Giants (88)
2013: Pirates (94) vs. Reds (90)
2012: Braves (94) vs. Cardinals (88)

According to Baseball-Reference.com, the answer is 30, set last season. The Brewers have already used 28 this year, so they're within striking distance, but it doesn't look like they will get to the all-time mark shared by the 2014 Rangers and the '17 Mariners. Those clubs used 40 pitchers apiece.
When you look at those lists, the leaderboard is stocked with teams from the past decade or so. It's a reflection of the rise of the reliever in the game, and of active roster management. The Brewers are not the only team with a group of pitchers with options to shuttle back and forth between the Minors and Majors to provide the big club with fresh arms.

I assume you were on a nice, relaxing cruise last weekend, because already lost the closer's job. Manager Craig Counsell says he'll go with a committee approach, but if I were a fantasy baseballer, I'd put my money on getting the most opportunities. Counsell seems to favor a set closer, and does not seem like a good match for that spot because the Brewers have been so careful to properly rest him between outings. If they do manage to make it into the postseason, it's going to be critical that Hader is at the top of his game.

You can fight this battle until you are blue in the face, but you are going to lose it. There is no evidence that shuffling players around the batting order has anything to do with their performance. Try to get your best players the most at-bats, and where there are platoon advantages to seize upon, do it. That's how managers build lineups in 2018. Fight it all you want, but it's not changing.

has surrendered two or fewer runs in seven of his eight Brewers starts this season, and three runs in the other. Let the man have his shaggy hair.

The standard for players is Hall of Fame or bust. So unless you can successfully petition the Veterans Committee to induct Jim Gantner, I don't think you'll see a No. 17 hanging in the rafters at Miller Park. But you also won't see anyone else wearing it, except Gantner himself when he comes out to the park for batting practice.