Brewers call up Jimmy Nelson to start Saturday

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By Tom Haudricourt
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Thursday, July 10, 2014

MILWAUKEE--As of Thursday morning, the Brewers still had right-hander Marco Estrada listed as their starting pitcher Saturday against St. Louis. Asked if that assignment was set in stone, manager Ron Roenicke quickly equivocated.

“I won’t comment on that,” Roenicke said.

The reason for the manager’s reluctance became obvious later in the day, when the Brewers announced pitching prospect Jimmy Nelson was being called up from Class AAA Nashville to make that start against the Cardinals. Estrada was reassigned to bullpen duty.

To make room on the roster for Nelson, the Brewers placed left-hander Wei-Chung Wang on the 15-day disabled list with shoulder tightness. That was an interesting development because the Brewers have been carrying the Rule 5 draft pick on their roster all season as required but rarely used him except in blowout games, which forced some creative maneuvering for Roenicke with his bullpen at times.

A Rule 5 draft pick must be on the active roster for at least 90 days for a team to retain his rights and that period expired at the start of July. So, the timing of Wang’s shoulder tightness couldn’t have worked out better for a skidding team that needs all hands on deck.

Substituting Nelson for Estrada was easy because the pitchers were lined up on the same day. Estrada pitched Monday against Philadelphia, and Nelson started that night for Nashville against Memphis. Nelson extended his streak in that game to 22 consecutive scoreless innings and is 10-2 with a 1.46 ERA in 17 games (16 starts) with 114 strikeouts in 111 innings.

Nelson made a spot start for injured Yovani Gallardo in Miami on May 25 and pitched 5 2/3 scoreless innings to record his first big-league victory.

Estrada is 7-6 with a 4.96 ERA and has had an up-and-down season in which he has allowed 27 home runs, by far the most in the majors.

“We’re in discussions all the time about this and what to do, and how do we improve,” Roenicke added. “And not just with other people, but how do we improve internally with what we have?

“Sometimes you wait until the all-star break to do things. But when the timing calls for something to be done, you try to do it. If it makes sense right then, why wait on something? That’s what we talk about all the time. We talk about what goes on in here, how guys are feeling right now, and do we need a change?”

Lara signs

The Brewers officially announced the signing of 16-year-old Dominican shortstop Gilbert Lara, their highest-profile international player ever. Lara reportedly signed for $3.1 million, far exceeding their previous high bonus of $900,000.

The Brewers think so highly of Lara they exceeded their original international bonus pool of $2,611,800 to sign him. They acquired an additional $339,000 from Oakland in a trade for minor-league pitcher Rodolfo Fernandez, increasing their allotment to $2,950,800.

The Brewers will be taxed at a 100 percent rate on the 5 percent that exceeded their limit but did not incur any penalties for future years.

“This is a major step to show the expanded and serious nature of our involvement in Latin America,” general manager Doug Melvin said. “Gilbert is a top talent that we are all very excited about.”

Lara was considered one of the top players on the international market with offensive upside. At 6 foot 2 and 190 pounds, he has budding power with what has been described as a somewhat unorthodox hitting approach.

Though it is difficult to know with 16-year-olds, Lara is projected to be a third baseman or corner outfielder.

“We feel Lara is a special player who has a chance to be a high-impact player in the major leagues,” said Tom Flanagan, the Brewers’ senior director of baseball operations. “Our scouts feel he is an advanced hitter with very good power.

“He’s athletic enough to stay at shortstop for now, but at some point he may outgrow the position. Ownership provided great support in order to complete this signing and allow us to add a player of this caliber to the organization.”

Last updated: 11:35 pm Thursday, July 10, 2014

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