After a very successful season as a long-man for Nick Nelson, circumstances changed that had him spend most of his 2023 season as a depth starting pitcher in AAA.
First came a hamstring issue in the middle of camp that required him to be placed on the IL once the season started.
After making it back, he was optioned when the Phillies were getting good outings from Andrew Vasquez.
He was sidelined once again with the same hamstring issue in May and was just kept in AAA as starting pitching depth when he returned.
The Phillies were going through starting pitcher issues during this situation. Andrew Painter was sidelined for the entire season and Ranger Suárez missed the beginning. Bailey Falter was struggling which forced the Phillies into doing bullpen games in mid-May.
If Nelson was available, it’s possible Matt Strahm would’ve stayed in the bullpen to begin the season, or they could’ve option Falter earlier in May. Just really bad timing for someone in his situation.
He didn’t make it back to the majors until the end of the season when the Phillies just wanted to get through a game in October against the Mets.
2023 stats: 1 start, 1.69 ERA, 3 strikeouts, 2 walks
Nelson provided some starting pitching depth in AAA with a 4.35 ERA in 97.1 innings. It wasn’t special but he took the ball and they never needed him.
He at least gave them one interesting outing so the Phillies don’t have to second-guess his future. He had a lot of success as a long-man in 2022 when his fastball averaged out to 96.5 miles per hour. In that start against the Mets, he only sat 93.8 but still put together encouraging results.
While he did take the ball every day in AAA, it wasn’t enough for the organization to trust him if something were to happen.
The Phillies traded one of the farm system’s better prospects for Michael Lorenzen so they could go to a six-man rotation. If Nelson was better, it’s possible they wouldn’t even consider a Lorenzen trade.
Outside of that, what else is there to complain about?
Nelson still carries an extra minor league option that will almost certainly be used next season. The Phillies brought back Dylan Covey which makes Nelson’s chances even less likely.
He gave them some depth and didn’t mess up his only chance to contribute in the big leagues for 2023.
The season was probably a stark contrast to 2022, where he didn’t face the same injury issues, and was a valuable contributor to a pennant-winning club.
He went from pitching game three of the World Series to Lehigh Valley. It’s probably not what he expected back in February.