Brewers teammates lead cheers as Jimmy Nelson makes first game appearance since September 2017
PHOENIX — As sixth innings of spring training games rate, this one was pretty special.
Brewers pitcher Jimmy Nelson hadn’t pitched a competitive inning against a batter wearing another team’s uniform since September 8, 2017. Nelson injured his shoulder diving back into the first-base bag in the sixth inning of that game against the Cubs and had shoulder surgery a few weeks later.
The rehab process was laborious, as rehab processes tend to be. So when Nelson walked in from the Milwaukee bullpen down the third-base line to start the sixth inning of the Brewers’ game against the White Sox on Monday, his teammates — dozens and dozens of them still packed into the dugout just to see the moment — jumped up and lined the rails, hands over their heads cheering for the right-hander, who was a rotation stalwart from 2015-17.
The crowd at the ballpark followed the lead of the players, with a big cheer that grew into a standing-and-clapping roar when he was officially announced.
#Brewers Jimmy Nelson talks about reception from his teammates and fans when returning to mound today. pic.twitter.com/Hurd51ksJy
“It was awesome,” Brewers reliever Jeremy Jeffress told SN in the clubhouse after Nelson’s inning. “That was big for Jimmy, just getting back out there. The ovation he got, I know he’s excited about it.”
Nelson pointed over to the dugout with his glove hand, acknowledging his teammates, then stepped onto the mound. Normally, by the sixth inning of a spring game, the dugout would be nearly empty when the team is playing defense. Monday, it was packed.
Even Jhoulys Chacin, the starting pitcher for the Brewers, stayed instead of heading into the clubhouse. He’s watched Nelson’s rehab journey, so of course he stayed.
“It gives you chills,” Chacin said.
Nelson was greeted by a home run, on a 1-0 pitch to Adam Engel, but nobody wearing a Brewers jersey cared one bit about that. Nelson finished his one inning with three strikeouts, two runs and four hits allowed.
“He struck out three guys and had to get through it a little bit, which is how the game works,” manager Craig Counsell said.
And White Sox hitters went down swinging in all three strikeouts.
“What he did today, just getting back out there, his velocity was great, he threw a couple nasty sliders out there,” Jeffress said. “What he did today was progress, that’s for sure.”
When he came out of the game, after striking out Danny Mendick, his teammates came out to greet him. It was a cool scene.
Jimmy Nelson just pitched his first inning against another team since 2017. His Brewers teammates spilled out of the dugout to congratulate him.
Very cool. pic.twitter.com/3PKiEhs0uo
“Not many times in the sixth inning you see that many guys in the dugout,” Chacin said. “That’s something, you can tell we are together and we are family. We support our guys. We know Jimmy, how hard he’s been working the last year and a half to do this, to make a comeback.”
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