Jimmy Nelson wasn’t expected to pitch much or at all in 2022, not after both Tommy John surgery and flexor tendon repair in his right elbow in August 2021. So that he didn’t appear in a game either in the majors or minors wasn’t too much of a surprise.
But it was still a bummer for the right-hander, who has been limited to just 51 innings pitched over the last five years.
First came shoulder surgery that wiped out his 2018 season while with Milwaukee. After a rough return to the majors in 2019, the Brewers non-tendered him. The Dodgers signed Nelson to a free agent deal, but he missed the 2020 season after back surgery.
The Dodgers have signed Nelson as a free agent in each of the last three offseasons. His healthiest time with Los Angeles came in 2021, when he made the team as a non-roster invitee and was arguably the Dodgers best reliever. It was evident how happy Nelson was during spring training that year, all smiles as he was ready to get back on the mound.
“When you’re not grinding through injuries and pain, you can actually enjoy the game,” he said at the time. “It’s been a long time. I’m just trying to enjoy it every day.”
Nagging injuries took their toll during 2021, missing time with forearm inflammation and a lumbar strain. While healthy he was great, with a 1.86 ERA and 37.9-percent strikeout rate in 29 innings. But that all ended in August after his elbow gave out, requiring both Tommy John surgery and flexor tendon repair, the dual procedure that Walker Buehler had a little more than one year later.
The MLB lockout may have helped facilitate Nelson’s re-signing with the Dodgers in 2022, as by the time he was able to ink a new deal in March, spring training already started and he could be placed on the 60-day injured list nearly simultaneously.
Nelson had a modest club option for 2023 worth $1.1 million, which isn’t prohibitive by any means. But the Dodgers declined it on November 8, opting not to use a roster spot on Nelson for now.
The right-hander signed a $1.25-million guaranteed deal in 2020, then signed another $1.25-million contract in 2021, only that was a minor league contract. The rubric for a potential new Nelson contract with the Dodgers is there, and it’s entirely possible he might want to return, having familiarity with the organization and most notably, the pitching department and medical staff. But depending on health, it might take a minor league contract or perhaps a deal closer to spring training for Nelson — who turns 34 in June — to return for a fourth time with Los Angeles.
Stats: did not pitch
Game of the year
The rare blank space here, as Nelson did not appear in a major league nor minor league game in 2022.
The Dodgers declined Nelson’s option on November 8. He is a free agent.