At first glance, you wouldnâ€™t think that a pitcher with a 4.79 ERA and a 5.56 FIP should have a spot in the New York Yankeesâ€™ roster. However, if you look closely, a lot of Nick Nelsonâ€™s struggles in 2020 can be blamed to one game.
On August 5 against the Philadelphia Phillies, the Yankees needed some outs because they were short on arms with a blowout loss in the first game of a doubleheader. They left Nelson on the mound on mop-up duty and let him allow six runs on seven hits and a walk in 1.2 frames.
Take that outing away and he ends 2020 with a 2.37 ERA. Of course, baseball doesnâ€™t work out that way, but there is, without a doubt, a lot of promise in the right-handerâ€™s arm. He has four pitches and could potentially fill a variety of roles.
On Mondayâ€™s game against the Detroit Tigers, the Yankeesâ€™ farmhand threw two very good innings. He faced seven hitters and retired six of them, with a punchout.
â€œI learned that I can trust my pitches, that I donâ€™t have to be too fine with them,â€ Nelson said to MLB.com. â€œThat was a big thing I took away. Going into the offseason, I had an idea of what I needed to do and what I needed to work on from a pitching standpoint and a weightroom standpoint.â€
Can he make the Yankeesâ€™ roster?
The Yankees, as of now, appear to have six bullpen spots saved for Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, Chad Green, Darren Oâ€™Day, Justin Wilson, and Luis Cessa. Jonathan Loaisiga should nab a spot, too, leaving one or two openings for Nelson to win.
â€œHeâ€™s got a high-octane fastball, but his calling card is his changeup,â€ Boone said. â€œThat changeup to go along with a high-90s fastball is something we really like. It feels like he continues to grow in his polish, and heâ€™s definitely someone we are excited about. Iâ€™m quite certain he can impact our bullpen in a short situation but also have the ability to give us innings as well.â€
Nelson would like to start, although that would be hard to imagine with the Yankeesâ€™ options. He is growing fond of relieving.
â€œThe biggest [adjustment] was not throwing that many pitches in the bullpen,â€ Nelson said. â€œItâ€™s kind of challenging, but at the same time, I think itâ€™s kind of cool. Thereâ€™s a lot of anticipation building up as a starter — you get there at a certain time, you go through your routine and whatnot. As a reliever, once your name gets called, you donâ€™t really have much to think about. I think it calmed my nerves being in the bullpen.â€