Yankees: Nick Nelson’s regression makes spot start look worse

BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 06: Nick Nelson #79 of the New York Yankees pitches during a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 6, 2020 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 06: Nick Nelson #79 of the New York Yankees pitches during a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 6, 2020 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) /
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The Yankees’ brass loves to tell you every time Nick Nelson steps on the mound that rival scouts “love” his stuff.

Perhaps they “love” him so much because they enjoy watching the Yanks ruin their chances to pile up more wins by giving him extended run?

It’d be tempting to say Nelson’s backslide, which continued Sunday against the Cleveland Indians in a game in which the Yankees had a chance to sweep, began with his uncomfortable appearance as an “opener” against the Rays, something he admitted he wasn’t very familiar with handling.

That wouldn’t be accurate; one of Nelson’s very worst outings came prior in another showdown with Tampa Bay at the Trop.

His ongoing struggles to control any element of his arsenal are making the team’s decision to use him as an opener with Michael King as a “bulk” guy behind him look even worse, though.

If that was even possible, after we learned Nelson didn’t feel like his best self on the mound for that extremely important game.

The Yankees need to stop using Nick Nelson in close games.

Nelson is an enigma at this point, showing off upper-echelon stuff, but entirely unable to harness it thus far in 2021.

Perhaps he’s better as the “bulk guy” than he is in a one-run game? Perhaps? Might be worth considering, with mounting evidence on the ledger.

We were already confused by his use as an opener in a crucial divisional series, but his ongoing list of game logs makes the decision even worse:

Opening Day: Allows a Randal Grichuk leadoff double to score the inherited runner and fall in extras

April 7: 1.1 scoreless against the Orioles in the Gleyber Defense Game. Alrighty!

April 9: 1.2 innings of four-run baseball in a blowout loss in Tampa, and his next outing would be…

April 16: …A start against Tampa! 1.0 inning, sloppiness, two runs before you could blink.

He then got through a scoreless outing against the Braves, and certainly did not in a winnable game again on Sunday.

Maddeningly, Nelson told the media after his poor start that he wasn’t mentally accustomed to the situation, and tried desperately to channel his minor-league days as a starter before getting on the mound for a tone-setting game.

Somehow, his FIP on the season entering Sunday’s game was a sterling 1.36. Unfortunately, most of his pitching this year has been extremely “independent” of his fielders, thanks to a cavalcade of walks.

We’ve seen enough, for now. Nelson shouldn’t enter one-run affairs and he shouldn’t start, after outright admitting as much. Perhaps it’s time for a trip to the Alternate Site.