PHOENIX — Making a comeback could be the hardest thing for a professional in any field. On the baseball diamond, it’s extremely tough, especially after missing a full season.
2018 was a long season for Jimmy Nelson. He never stepped on the field, yet he was part of the team. In 2019, he’s hoping to be part of the team and back on the field.
“He’s in a healthy pitcher process,” said Craig Counsell, manager of the Milwaukee Brewers.
The process involved pain, frustration, patience, dedication, preparation and exhilaration.
“Things are kind of polishing up for me and I’m just so thankful, grateful for it,” said Nelson.
On Sept. 8, 2017, Nelson partially tore his labrum and strained his rotator cuff in his right shoulder after diving back into first base after hitting a single. That ended his 2017 season and ended up wiping out the entire 2018 campaign as well.
“I think last year one of the main guys I really leaned on teammate wise was Stephen Vogt,” said Nelson.
Vogt, who injured his shoulder during spring training in 2018 would be Nelson’s go-to guy in the clubhouse throughout the season.
“He could relate with me with some of the stuff I was going through, and the fact that he was there with the team as well, he and I were both with the team all year, and even though we were in different places in our actual rehab itself, he was just a very wise — very — one of the best guys I’ve been around in the game,” said Nelson.
It would pay off in many ways, especially in keeping Nelson’s spirits up during the long and difficult rehabilitation program.
“There were a couple of road trips where we stayed back and worked. We had a lot of rides together, a lot of skull sessions and stuff. You know, that small stuff like that, even though he wasn’t on the field playing, I mean, that was an unbelievable valuable resource to me. So I’m so appreciative for him too,” said Nelson.
This spring, Vogt was gone, but Nelson was back in the clubhouse and on the field.
“I’m excited. It’s, each bullpen, each throwing session has gotten a little bit better with stuff and command and making adjustments on the fly,” said Nelson.
“He’s pushing us, so that’s where we want it to be,” said Counsell.
The competitive spirit was clearly driving him as he was finding any way to make his practice sessions as close to game speed as possible, even if it might cost him some money. When Nelson appears in games, the process will once again be slow and deliberate.
“I think when you have a player that you know is going to push you really hard, it’s our job to hold him back a little bit, but if he’s going good, we’re comfortable going forward,” said Counsell.
“I’m just excited about a new year. You know, I’m not looking back to 2017. I’m expecting myself to be significantly better than I was in the past to help this team take that next step, you know, get to the World Series and win it,” said Nelson.
Nelson pitched his first spring training game Monday, March 11. He allowed a home run, but also struck out three batters. After that, on Twitter, he thanked the fans and his teammates for the support.