Brewers Friday: Milwaukee makes room for Nelson in rotation
JUL 11, 2014 7:45p ET
MILWAUKEE -- After discussing the switch over the last couple of weeks, the Milwaukee Brewers officially moved Marco Estrada out of the starting rotation Thursday night to make way for top pitching prospect Jimmy Nelson.
What made the timing right for Nelson to come up now? The right-hander was simply pitching too well to stay in Triple-A.
"I think it had both to do with him pitching so well and Marco not pitching as well as we know he can," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "Even though Marco's pitched, we think, better the last four games, Jimmy was making it impossible for us to keep him down there.
"It's just that I think this guy deserved a chance. (General manager) Doug (Melvin) has been talking to me about him and wanting to make a change.
"Regardless of which area of our game isn't going well right now, we felt it was the right time to do it."
Nelson, who was 10-2 with a 1.46 ERA in 17 games and 16 starts for Triple-A Nashville, didn't allow a run in his last 22 innings with the Sounds. There wasn't much left for the 25-year-old to prove to the Brewers in the minor leagues.
"Personally, I felt like I was ready, but at the same time, there were things I was working on," Nelson said. "There's things you are always polishing up and refining.
"(I was working on) just overall command. Being able to use my secondary pitches in any count, continuing to develop my changeup, things like that. It came pretty far this year, and I'm happy where it is right now."
Nelson will slide into Estrada's slot in the rotation and will start Saturday against Adam Wainwright and the Cardinals. It will be Nelson's third career big-league start, as he got the ball last Sept. 28 in New York and again this season on May 25 in Miami in a spot start for the injured Yovani Gallardo.
"I'm just going to continue to do what has been working for me so far all year in Triple-A," Nelson said. "I have to establish fastball command. Without that your other stuff doesn't work. Trust our defense. We have a great defense. They have been picking it all year.
"It was nice last year to get my feet wet and get the butterflies out last September. I think it is going to help me a little bit."
Roenicke said the team considered putting Nelson into the bullpen but opted to move Estrada to a relief role instead. Estrada pitched in the bullpen for most of the 2011 season for the Brewers and began 2012 as a reliever before replacing the injured Chris Narveson in Milwaukee's rotation in late April.
Estrada has been a starter ever since but has struggled to a 4.96 ERA in 18 starts this season, allowing a major-league worst 27 home runs. The right-hander was valuable to the Brewers as a long-to-middle reliever in 2011, something the team is hoping for again with this move.
"That's what part of the conversation was," Roenicke said. "It was, 'You're not just in the bullpen because we want you in there. You're in the bullpen because we think you can help us win games.' As we've seen lately, the bullpen is very important to what we do. To win games, you have to have guys down there you can count on.
"He understood. He wasn't happy. I don't want him to be happy. But he understood."
Wang hits the DL: To clear a spot on the 25-man roster for Nelson, the Brewers placed left-hander Wei-Chung Wang on the 15-day disabled list with left shoulder tightness.
A Rule 5 pick, Wang has already spent the minimum 90 days on Milwaukee's active roster, but he must be returned to the big-league team when healthy.
Roenicke said the plan with Wang is to shut him down for 2-4 weeks to "get this thing calmed down" before resuming his throwing progression.
Wang would then be allotted a minor-league rehab assignment of up to 30 days, which would leave a potential return awfully close to the day the big-league rosters expand to 40 on Sept. 1.
Roenicke was unsure if Wang would go to the minor leagues and start or pitch out the bullpen once he's able to go on a rehab assignment.
"This came up pretty fast yesterday," Roenicke said. "I think with me just finding out what we were going to try to do with him and the switch we were going to make that but we haven't talked about whether he was going to start once he comes back or whether he was going to relieve. So, I don't know."
The Brewers have carried the 22-year-old on their active roster all season due to the left-hander's potential, as it is clear he isn't ready to pitch at the big leagues quite yet. Wang has an 11.12 ERA in 17 innings, sometimes going two weeks between appearances.
"That's what makes it so hard -- you want to develop him, and you also want him to pitch well for you, yet the inconsistent work is tough on a guy," Roenicke said. "He's been a starter, he's been used to pitching whatever days he was going to go. So he went from a starter to a reliever and then with the inconsistent work, it becomes difficult."
Another starter: With Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina going down with a torn ligament in his right thumb, Lucroy will start behind the plate for the National League at Tuesday's All-Star Game.
"It will be fun," Lucroy said. "I hate it because it is an injury. That's brutal. I hate starting because of that. But it is what it is, so I'm going to go in and do my best to help the team win."
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