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2023 Dodgers in review: Jimmy Nelson

Dodgers pitcher Jimmy Nelson spent the 2023 season on the injured list, and pitched in 29 games for Triple-A Oklahoma City.
Dodgers pitcher Jimmy Nelson spent the 2023 season on the injured list, and pitched in 29 games for Triple-A Oklahoma City.
Photo: Oklahoma City Dodgers

Jimmy Nelson pitched on a professional mound for the first time in a year and a half in 2023, but his long rehab road saw him toil in the minors all season.

The Dodgers signed Nelson to a $1.2 million contract in February, his fourth consecutive one-year deal with the team. After missing the last half of 2021 and all of 2022 after Tommy John surgery and flexor tendon repair, Nelson in spring training 2023 pitched in a game for the first time in just over 19 months.

Understandably, after missing so much time, Nelson lacked control once he returned, and walked 11 of 24 batters faced during spring training games.

“Myself, and all of us, really got to appreciate what he’s been through. Coming back from Tommy John, the execution and command, that’s gonna come,” manager Dave Roberts said of Nelson during a Cactus League broadcast. “For him, feeling like you’re letting guys down, that’s not the case. We completely believe in him. He’s going to figure it out, but it’s going to take some time, and he’ll be fine.”

Nelson did take some time, not joining Triple-A Oklahoma City until late April, though his minor league rehab assignment lasted only one game.

He restarted things once the Arizona Complex League started in June, then after four games in Arizona rejoined Oklahoma City. Per the collective bargaining agreement, minor league rehab assignments for pitchers can last up to 30 days, though if the pitcher suffers a setback of some sort, the clock can reset back to zero.

That’s essentially what happened for Nelson, who had three roughly month-long rehab assignments with Oklahoma City beginning in June.

“There’s the health component, that’s one part of it,” Roberts said in July, near the end of the first of those rehab assignments. “But also on rehab, getting the stuff where it needs to be, to be major-league-ready and serviceable. We haven’t gotten quite there yet.”

Nelson had a 5.00 ERA with Oklahoma City, though the league ERA was 5.70 so that’s not as bad as it seems. Counting his four games in Arizona, Nelson in all held opposing batters to hitting just .206 with a .299 slugging percentage in the minors.

But walks remained the issue, walking 33 in 30⅔ innings to go with his 39 strikeouts. His walk rate in Triple-A was 23.5 percent. Nelson never did get back to the minors in 2023, remaining on the injured list for the remainder of the season, and pitched in 29 games in Triple-A.

2023 particulars

Age: 34

Stats: 5.00 ERA, 29 G, 27 IP, 31 BB, 34 K, 1.926 WHIP in Triple-A Oklahoma City

Salary: $1.2 million

Game of the year

On August 31 against the Round Rock Express, Nelson struck out all three batters he faced in a perfect eighth inning, helping to preserve what was a 4-2 win for Oklahoma City.

This was near the end of Nelson’s best stretch of the season, in which he pitched seven consecutive scoreless outings, with 12 strikeouts and four walks in seven innings from August 4 to September 2.

Roster status

Nelson is a free agent.