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Jimmy Nelson’s rough start to spring training

MLB: Colorado Rockies at Los Angeles Dodgers Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Dodgers re-signed Jimmy Nelson to a major-league deal in February, but at the moment he’s not finding the strike zone nearly enough to be in a major league bullpen.

Nelson’s latest scuffle came Thursday night against the Rangers. Entering in the sixth inning, Nelson walked his first two batters, then fell behind again before Mitch Garver popped out in foul territory. Nelson walked the next two batters, forcing in a run.

In his game against the Rangers, Nelson threw 28 pitches, only 10 for strikes.

This spring, Nelson has pitched in four Cactus League games, and faced 17 batters. He walked eight of them, and struck out none.

“It was overall command. He’s got a really good curveball, good slider, and tonight he didn’t have command,” manager Dave Roberts told Kirsten Watson on SportsNet LA after the game. “He knows it’s got to be better.”

Lack of command, or any kind of rustiness is to be expected, considering Nelson was coming off Tommy John surgery and flexor tendon repair in his right elbow that cost him a year and a half. Before March 1, Nelson’s last game pitched was July 30, 2021. In that first start back, in Surprise against the Rangers, Nelson walked two and allowed a hit and didn’t retire a batter. Given that it was his first time on a game mound in over 20 months, and that rainy conditions at that point in the game had pitchers from both teams unable to find proper footing, it was easy to dismiss.

But the wildness has persisted in his last three outings, too.

When right, Nelson was one of the best pitchers on the team. But that only accounted for a half-season during his three years in Los Angeles. The Dodgers are clearly enamored enough with Nelson’s stuff that they were willing to sign him to four consecutive one-year contracts. Nelson is very familiar with the coaching and medical staff.

Considering Nelson has the requisite service time to refuse any minor league assignment, any delay to placing him on the active roster while keeping him in the organization would need to come via the injured list. Patience has been a running theme for both Nelson and the Dodgers during their first three years together. It might take some more longanimity in order to get the most out of the fourth time around.