Jimmy Nelson building confidence in return

PHOENIX — The setting was Spring Training, complete with a fly ball that should have ended a Brewers win over the Rockies and three scoreless innings for Jimmy Nelson, but instead was momentarily lost in the sun and then dropped by Brewers Minor Leaguer Cooper Hummel.
But the fist pump

PHOENIX — The setting was Spring Training, complete with a fly ball that should have ended a Brewers win over the Rockies and three scoreless innings for Jimmy Nelson, but instead was momentarily lost in the sun and then dropped by Brewers Minor Leaguer Cooper Hummel.

But the fist pump that followed was regular-season-ready. Nelson stopped the Rockies rally by getting an inning-ending strikeout on a breaking ball and let out a yell of satisfaction, having capped a 40-pitch outing in which he reached 95 mph on the radar gun at American Family Fields of Phoenix.

Then the Brewers gave Nelson a win, 5-4, on Tuffy Gosewisch’s walk-off single.

“That was awesome,” said Nelson, who is two Cactus League outings into his comeback after a year and a half spent rehabbing from shoulder surgery. “I’ve been waiting for that for a long time — well, not waiting for that. Working for that for a long time.

“I know it’s a Spring Training game, but I don’t care. That was fun. It wouldn’t have been that good if I didn’t get picked up a couple of times with our defense. Our infield was pretty solid right there, a couple of those plays. Obviously, in the ninth we came back, and that was pretty cool. All together and all around, defense and offense, that was pretty clutch. It was good all around.”

Nelson allowed two hits and a hit batsman in his three innings of work, the second hit a double punched softly over third base with two outs in the ninth that extended the game for Hummel’s run-scoring error. Nelson didn’t walk a batter and he struck out four, touching 95 mph in his first inning of work in the seventh, and sitting at 92 mph in the ninth.

“It’s not all velo, but for him to see 95,” said Gosewisch, “it’s just going to build the confidence even more so he’s like, ‘All right, it’s there. My arm’s healthy. I feel good, and it shows on the board.’ Just another thing to build confidence and, ‘Hey, I’m coming along and I’m right where I need to be.’”

The results showed improvement over his first spring outing five days earlier against the White Sox, in which Nelson surrendered a home run to the first batter he faced, and two runs on four hits in all. He did strike out the side in that game.

Earlier Saturday, Brewers manager Craig Counsell cautioned against putting too much stock in Spring Training results, good or bad. What impressed Counsell was not the radar gun readings, but that Nelson filled the strike zone against the Rockies and induced a lot of swing and miss with breaking balls.

“An encouraging outing,” Counsell said.

Will Nelson stay on a five-day schedule? “Ish,” said Counsell.

“Every starter, if you think about their starts, they all get a sixth day every so often, so they’ll put that in there, too,” Counsell said. “And we’ll put in some longer ones, too. I think it’s the right thing.”

Nelson will not be on the Brewers’ Opening Day roster, Counsell has said. His next outing will probably be in a Minor League game, since innings are getting scarce as other starters ramp up for the regular season.

Chacin tunes up
In the box score, it was the least effective of Jhoulys Chacin’s four Cactus League outings. Two days after being named Milwaukee’s Opening Day starter, Chacin allowed a two-run home run to Trevor Story in the first inning and three runs on six hits and a walk with four strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings in all.

It sounds odd, but some of Chacin’s earlier innings had been too clean, as far as Counsell was concerned.

“It was the perfect outing for Jhoulys, really,” Counsell said. “He came in after the first inning and says, ‘Well, there’s your tough inning. But we got up to the mid-80s in pitches and he had to work to get through it. He got out there for the sixth inning. Faced a tough lineup. For me, a very positive outing.”

Chacin’s final spring start will come in a Minor League game before he pitches March 28 against the Cardinals at Miller Park.

Last call
The Brewers will do a bit of positional tinkering in their remaining Spring Training games. Eric Thames started in the outfield on Friday for the first time this spring, and will continue to get action there. Travis Shaw will see some first base, though the Brewers don’t plan to use Ryan Braun there.

Zach Davies will start for the Brewers on Sunday against the Dodgers in Glendale, Ariz., as the Brewers begin their final full week in the desert. The 3:05 p.m. CT game will air on 94.5 FM ESPN in Milwaukee.

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram and like him on Facebook.

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