Despite the monumental loss of Zack Britton for at least three months, the New York Yankees bullpen has been absolutely plowing through the opposition during spring training.
At this point, it’s clear Nick Nelson has earned himself a spot among the team’s cast of relievers, thanks in part to his solid debut campaign in 2020.
He’s really elevated his play this spring, though. In 6.1 innings of work, Nelson has yet to give up a run and has allowed just four hits while striking out six.
It seems his performance is validating the potential that the organization and many fans saw when he appeared in 20.2 innings of work.
He’s got a 98 MPH heater and pairs it with a nasty changeup, which has looked particularly good this month. Aaron Boone called it a “special pitch” that’s been able to throw off hitters in a significant way.
Oh, and speaking of Boone, the Yankees skipper all but confirmed Nelson has a job on the team’s Opening Day roster, but did fans like what they heard after that?
A Jonathan Loaisiga-type role? We’re pretty sure Jonathan Loaisigia famously does not have a defined role, which makes it seem like we’re going to see Nelson make spot starts, multi-inning relief appearances, and single high-leverage relief appearances? Yeah, no thanks.
Let’s give the kid a bonafide role that he could work with. So often the Yankees are trying to give talented arms a “hybrid” role, but it doesn’t work. Remember when they experimented with Chad Green as an opener after he spent two years as a lights out reliever? Didn’t work out at all!
And as for Loaisiga, one could argue the Yankees’ varying usage of the right-hander has adversely affected his development. Even though he’s appeared in just 36 career games, the fact he’s yet to be placed in a solidified role with his talent and arsenal of pitches could possibly explain his 4.42 ERA.
So, please, let’s not do the same with Nelson. We know he was a starter throughout his career in the minors, but it’s clear he won’t be that with the Yankees given he’s not considered to be in the running for a job in the rotation … nor was he last year when the Bombers were short on arms.
Let’s utilize his impressive fastball and deceptive changeup when they’re needed most. Don’t be throwing him into random spot starts or giving him meaningless multi-inning relief appearances if he continues to show he’s worthy of a more prominent role.