PHOENIX -- Tyler Thornburg and Michael Blazek may be getting better Spring Training results, but right-hander Jimmy Nelson's fifth-starter status is secure, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke suggested Thursday.
Nelson was handed that job at the start of camp "because of what he did last year in Triple-A," Roenicke said. "He was the most dominant pitcher in Triple-A, and that tells you if he can get to that guy, we have a really nice Major League starter."
Nelson only spent the first half of last season in the Minors but won Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Year honors after going 10-2 with a 1.46 ERA in 16 starts and one relief appearance.
But he was far less effective after a callup to Milwaukee, going 2-9 with a 4.93 ERA, and he owns a 6.23 ERA and a .304 opponents' batting average this spring. Meanwhile, Thornburg's Cactus League ERA is 2.63 and Blazek's is 3.29 in six games apiece.
"We don't just go by what 'now' is," Roenicke said. "We have to look at what we think the future can be. That's been going on in baseball since the beginning, and it's not fair to everybody because some guys will perform better at a certain time. But it's predicting what a guy is going to be."
So what has held Nelson back this spring?
"It's because he doesn't command the ball," Roenicke said. "I think when he was in Triple-A, he commanded the ball better, for whatever reason. Maybe it was the confidence he had there. He's got overpowering stuff, but there's not too many guys who can overpower a Major League hitter if you don't put it in the right spot."
Besides his occasional issues with fastball command, Nelson has been without his "dominant" slider, Roenicke said.
"We need to get that back," he said.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.