Nelson ahead of schedule in shoulder recovery
Brewers righty, set to begin throwing in spring, will start this week
MILWAUKEE -- Here's news that will not surprise anyone who has met the man or watched him hustle from task to task around the Brewers' clubhouse: Jimmy Nelson is ahead of schedule in his comeback from shoulder surgery.
Way ahead of schedule.
Originally slated to begin a throwing program at the start of Spring Training, Nelson instead plans to pick up a baseball for the first time on Friday. His timeline to rejoin the Brewers' starting rotation remains nebulous, given the time and patience which will be required to rebuild strength and stamina, and to refine his mechanics. But those first few tosses will represent a milestone for the 28-year-old, whose right shoulder was repaired in three places on Sept. 19.
"I've been anxious to start throwing the last couple of weeks, really," Nelson said. "My strength came back much quicker than I thought it would."
Nelson's surroundings as he spoke via telephone with MLB.com helped explain the accelerated timeline. He might have made history as the first ballplayer to conduct an interview while lying in a hyperbaric chamber, a pressurized tube filled with pure oxygen popular with athletes around the world to aid rehab and recovery.
Nelson purchased one for his Houston-area home to complete his comeback regimen. It is not the sole reason for his progress -- Nelson said his daily routine includes arm care and physical therapy, workouts at a gym popular with pro baseball players, Pilates workouts and a much-improved diet thanks to wife Melissa, "who is right along on this ride with me."
But he is convinced the chamber has helped. Nelson recommends it to anyone with the time -- he spends two hours a day in the tube -- and the resources. Nelson said his retailed for $24,000, though he got a deep discount on a barely-used unit from another athlete who was retiring.
"The volume and intensity of my workouts has been able to stay as high as possible," Nelson said. "I haven't had to take too many recovery days or too many easy days at the gym, because I'm not feeling super sore. There are things it's doing for me internally that I can't see. It's one of the many reasons my rehab has gone so well."
How does he pass the time?
"There's a good bit of room in here," Nelson said. "It's about seven feet long, and I'm lying on my back and my shoulders aren't hitting the side of the tube," Nelson said. "You can bring your iPad in here, talk to people on the phone, do whatever."
One thing he cannot do is play video games, Nelson's favorite pastime. The hectic rehab schedule -- he rises before 6 a.m. every day and finishes his routine by stepping out of the chamber around 6 p.m. -- has cut into Nelson's couch time.
That is a sacrifice worth making, he said.
"Once we start throwing, we can really see a timeline for this thing," Nelson said. "Everyone responds differently. It might go faster than we assume, or take a bit longer. And there are things I may have to do the rest of the year ... maybe for the rest of my career -- in terms of maintenance -- but I'm going to do [everything I can do] to stay healthy.
"So I don't want to set a date [to return to the rotation], I just want to keep progressing like I have been. That day will be sooner than it is later."