Dodgers Spring Training: Dave Roberts Impressed With Jimmy Nelson, But Acknowledges Health Is ‘Most Important’

The Los Angeles Dodgers took fliers on several intriguing pitchers over the offseason as they looked to replace some of the innings left by the departures of Hyun-Jin Ryu and Rich Hill, and eventually Kenta Maeda as well.

David Price, 2012 American League Cy Young Award winner and five-time All-Star, was added to a starting rotation that already included the likes of Walker Buehler and Clayton Kershaw.

The Dodgers additionally signed Jimmy Nelson and Alex Wood to one-year contracts, both of whom are looking to reestablish their value after injury-shortened 2019 campaigns.

Nelson, 30, spent the first six seasons of his career with the Milwaukee Brewers, and at one point was considered a staple of the club’s starting rotation.

He enjoyed his best season in 2017, compiling a 12-6 record with a 3.49 ERA en route to a ninth-place finish in National League Cy Young Award voting.

Injuries have derailed Nelson over the past two seasons, however, as Nelson missed all of 2018 while recovering from right shoulder surgery and appeared in only 10 games last year.

As Nelson looked to bounce back from the disappointing stretch, he began to impress some of his new coaches and teammates. “I like the arm,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts recently said.

“I think Jimmy was dealing with a little [injury] early. He’s in position where he’s trying to make an impression on his new teammates and coaches, but still has to understand health is most important.

“So it’s a balancing act. He’s here for a reason. We viewed him as a starter, but health is a thing, so we’ve got to take it day to day and build him up. Pre-injury, I remember a really good curveball, he was able to spin the baseball and had an elite fastball. He was one of those young pitchers we kind of wanted to miss.”

Nelson was limited by a groin issue and back tightness in the early going of Spring Training, and he was subsequently shut down after suffering a setback in a bullpen session.

The right-hander was one of five candidates under consideration for the fifth spot in the Dodgers’ starting rotation, but his previous experience as a reliever also makes him an ideal fit for the bullpen.

With Nelson attempting to return to his pre-injury form, Roberts believes he could get back to that level. “It’s not as consistent as far as the execution, which is expected, but when he syncs it up it’s really good,” Roberts said.

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