Nelson affirms confidence after shaky spring

Brewers' No. 5 starter still has faith after posting 6.23 ERA in Cactus League

Nelson affirms confidence after shaky spring

PHOENIX -- If Jimmy Nelson's confidence was dented during his first Spring Training as a member of the Brewers' Major League starting rotation, he refused to let on Saturday.

"It was a lot of learning, a lot of adjustments," said Nelson, who will begin the season as the Brewers' No. 5 starter. "I had a lot of chances to work on my secondary stuff, and that was good. Overall, it was good.

"You keep trusting in the process, trust that it will lead where it's supposed to."

He surrendered three runs on nine hits in 4 1/3 innings against the Indians on Saturday, striking out seven batters but walking three others, and allowing a two-run home run to Brandon Moss. Nelson finished his first Spring Training as a full-fledged member of the Major League starting rotation with a 6.23 ERA, and that didn't count the 10 runs he surrendered last week in a Minor League game.

"Of course you want to go out there and have clean outings," Nelson said, "but we can only control what we can. After the ball leaves our hand, you can't do anything about it. I tried to focus on that, not trying to do too much."

Nelson will have to wait a full week before taking the mound again. Manager Ron Roenicke set his starting rotation Saturday by announcing he would flip Nelson and Mike Fiers, so that Fiers starts Friday's series opener against the Pirates against Miller Park and Nelson follows the next night.

Fiers will make one final tune-up on Sunday in Minor League camp.

"It's the experience that Fiers has and the success he's had," Roenicke said. "We think the first game of a series is important enough to flip-flop them."

Of Nelson's outing against Cleveland, Roenicke said, "We really like how he threw the ball. He threw a lot of good curveballs and a lot of good sliders."

Nelson worked extensively this spring on his offspeed pitches, including a new curveball, and on trying to avoid being so "max effort" on the mound. He was pleased with his progress in that area.

Nelson is one of four players on Milwaukee's roster ticketed for his first Major League Opening Day. As he struggled to get results throughout the spring, Roenicke continued to affirm the organization's faith in the 25-year-old, saying Nelson's spectacular success last season at the Triple-A level earned him an opportunity to break camp this year with the big league club.

"Some people asked me, because he hasn't pitched that well through camp, if you're still stuck to him. But I think he deserves it," Roenicke said earlier Saturday. "Us, we're pretty comfortable with making that decision and we'll see how he does."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.