September 6, 2013 will be a night Jimmy Nelson will never forget. Manager Ron Roenicke made the call to the Milwaukee Brewers bullpen with the team trailing the Chicago Cubs 7-2 in the bottom of the 6th inning. On that night, Roenicke tabbed Jimmy Nelson to enter the game. He would head to the mound at one of Americas most historical baseball venues, Wrigley Field, and make his Major League Debut.
Entering the game and adrenaline rushing, Nelson pitched two innings. In the 6th inning he was scheduled to face Logan Watkins, Starlin Castro, and Darwin Barney. Nelson got each out in order. The following inning was more of the same, Nelson recorded another 1-2-3 inning getting Anthony Rizzo, Nate Schierholtz, and Ryan Sweeney out. A successful and memorable debut in the Major Leagues.
Nelson’s first major league strikeout would come in his second appearance. Appearing again in relief, Nelson was summoned out of the bullpen at home versus the Cincinnati Reds. In his one inning of work he struck out Ryan Ludwick and Zach Cozart swinging.
After making one more scoreless appearance out of the bullpen the Brewers called upon Nelson to start one of their final games of the season in New York versus the Mets. Nelson pitched five solid innings allowing his first and only run of the season. He recorded a ‘no decision’ as Donovan Hand picked up the win in relief. Nelson’s first win in the majors would have to wait.
As the 2014 season started Nelson was on the cusp of earning a starting spot in the Milwaukee rotation. The right hander started the season in AAA but was called upon on May 25th when Yovani Gallardo was unable to make the start on the road against the Miami Marlins.
Nelson battled the Miami heat, humidity, and batters through 5 2/3 innings. With the help of six strike outs and solid defense behind him Nelson earned his first career Major League victory. Gallardo was set to return after missing just one start, Nelson was sent back to AAA awaiting his next opportunity.
After dominating AAA, going 10-2 with a 1.46 ERA and 0.92 WHIP Nelson was again recalled by the Brewers in mid July. This time he was set to take a regular turn in the Brewers starting rotation in place of Marco Estrada. Nelson would make 11 additional starts for the Brewers with mixed results. The Brewers as a team struggled to find the win column in the second half of the season. Nelson finished the season with a 2-9 record and an ERA/WHIP combo of 4.93/1.45.
The 6’6″ right hander features a power approach on the mound. Armed with a four-seam fastball which sits in the mid 90’s and a low 90’s two-seamer with sink which causes ground balls and weak contact. Nelson also features a plus slider that when matched with his fastballs can result in an effective out pitch. He also features a changeup which he uses to keep hitters off-balance when they are focusing in on his power fastball.
During the off-season the Brewers traded Yovani Gallardo to the Texas Rangers paving the way for Nelson become one of Milwaukee’s starting five to start the season. Nelson plans on building upon what he learned at the big league level in 2014 to make him a better pitcher in 2015.
Seven Questions with Jimmy Nelson
1. In 2013 you made your Major League debut. How did it feel to get the call to the big leagues?
It was awesome. It made going through all we do in the minors worth it. It’s obviously a dream I’ve had since I was a little kid. So it was exciting to get the call, and the family was just as excited.
2. Take us back to your Major League debut. Tell us about that day and experience.
It was at Wrigley Field which was cool, being in such a historical place. I came in out of the bullpen. I tried to get the jitters out before I got in. Of course I was still pretty pumped when I first got out there but next thing I knew I went 2 innings. It went by pretty fast.
3. Does something like a first strike out or some easy innings calm you down when making your first couple big league appearances?
I didn’t get my first strikeout (Ryan Ludwick) until my second outing which was against Cincinnati in Milwaukee. So it was nice to get the first one at home. I think that whole month of September, it was exciting everytime I went out. That’s something I had to learn to deal with and did my best to keep my emotions in check.
4. Fast forward to 2014. You picked up your first big league win in May when the Brewers called you up to pitch in a game against the Miami Marlins. What do you remember about that day?
Yea that was awesome. Unfortunately Yo (Yovani Gallardo) had to skip a start because he tweaked his ankle the week before but I remember it was extremely humid and I had to battle. My command was all over the place and I think someone was on base every inning but our defense really picked me up which helped us get out of some jams. We put up quite a few runs early in the game which always helps settling into the game as a pitcher.
5. How did it feel to get your first major league win under your belt?
It’s nice. I think I was more excited for the fact that it kept us ahead in the standings. It felt good to be able to come up and help contribute even if it was just for one day at that point.
6. Another first for you would be your first big league hit. That came when you were recalled again in July. What do you remember about that?
Yea that was nice because I was 0 for my lifetime in the minors. Ironically it was off of Jacob Degrom who I played summer ball with down in Florida between my sophomore and junior summer in college. I just remember trying to make contact and luckily the ball squeaked through the infield.
7. You spent most of the second half of the season in Milwaukee. What did you learn from your time in the majors and how did it help you improve heading into 2015?
I learned a lot, not just from on the field experience but from the other starters between starts. They were all open with helping me out which meant a lot and shows the kind of character they have. I learned how to go pitch by pitch and that my stuff can win at the major league level. I don’t have to try to do anything more than what I did to get there.
I also learned to stick with your game plan because when you get away from it you can get hurt. Especially with the level of hitters at the big league level. The experience last year is going to help me settle in better this year and pitch to my potential. We have a good team and I look forward to getting this season started.
A special thanks to Jimmy Nelson for taking some time out of his schedule just days before the start of spring training. We look forward to following him all season long as he continues to establish himself with the Milwaukee Brewers. Please give Jimmy a follow on twitter @Jimmy_J_Nelson and like us on Facebook and follow us on twitter @CTD_Sypien as we continue to bring you an inside look at players big league debuts.
If you missed it read our original story and interview with Jimmy here – Jimmy Nelson: Story and Interview