MILWAUKEE -- Each of the Brewers' top two Minor League affiliates won their season finales Monday, capping an otherwise trying season throughout Milwaukee's farm system.
Brewers affiliates combined to go 331-417 (.443) in 2013, with the only winning record belonging to the playoff-bound Helena Brewers in the Rookie-level Pioneer League. Triple-A Nashville, its roster raided throughout the season by the injury-battered Brewers, went 57-87 for the lowest winning percentage (.396) in 36 years as a franchise, and Double-A Huntsville, subsequently raided by Nashville, went 59-79.
"It was a tough year, but I feel like there was a lot of talent down there," said right-hander Jimmy Nelson, who played in both Huntsville and Nashville. "There's been a lot of guys come up here and have success."
He was surrounded by many of those guys at Miller Park on Tuesday. Khris Davis, Scooter Gennett, Caleb Gindl, Donovan Hand and Rob Wooten all played more prominent roles than expected for the Brewers this season.
"So it wasn't a lack of talent by any means," Nelson said.
Said Brewers manager Ron Roenicke: "Guys are moving around so much now that it's hard to have that 'team' there the whole year. Look at what we've done to Triple-A, and because we've done that to Triple-A, look at what that's done to Double-A. So how do you stay good doing that? If we're affected by injuries, that means they're affected by the same thing."
Top prospect Nelson arrives ready for first 'pen stint
MILWAUKEE -- Jimmy Nelson reported to a new clubhouse Tuesday and assumed a new role: relief pitcher.
The 24-year-old right-hander, MLB.com's top Brewers prospect, was called up to make his Major League debut. The Brewers would have added Nelson to the 40-man roster after the season, anyway, to protect him from December's Rule 5 Draft, so why not reward him for a solid Minor League season?
"It's something I've worked for for a long time," Nelson said. "It still hasn't hit me."
He went 10-10 with a 3.25 ERA in 27 starts between Double-A Huntsville and Triple-A Nashville, plus a scoreless inning at the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game in New York. Nelson's 3.8 walks per nine innings were a career-best, and his 9.6 strikeouts per nine innings were his best since Rookie ball in 2010, when the Brewers made Nelson their second-round pick in the First-Year Player Draft.
The Brewers have their starting rotation mapped out through the end of the season, and Nelson is not ticketed for a start, said manager Ron Roenicke, who stressed that every plan is subject to change.
"We already have six [starters]," Roenicke said. "There's just too many guys. With [Tyler] Thornburg, because he's pitched so well, we feel we need to see him in a starting role, and it's already a mess going to six guys. It's just a matter of, you're wanting to see guys, but you also want to give the guys you're looking at the opportunity to pitch well."
Nelson's last Triple-A start was Friday, so Roenicke planned to avoid using him Tuesday. On Wednesday, Nelson would be available for his first regular-season relief appearance since May 17, 2011, at Class A Wisconsin.
"It's just an adjustment," Nelson said. "I threw out of the bullpen a few times [at the University of Alabama] and I did it in the Fall League this last fall, so I've gotten a little taste of it. It's just an adjustment, a change in the mentality from starting to bullpen."
Nelson has already logged a career-high 152 1/3 regular season innings, but said he wasn't tired.
"If you're tired when you get called up, then you're not tired," he joked. "It's a little energizing. I felt good this year."
Hellweg joins rotation with chance to earn job for '14
MILWAUKEE -- Johnny Hellweg did not make good on his first Major League chance. Now, as a September callup, the 6-foot-9 right-hander has an opportunity to make an impression on the Brewers for next season.
Hellweg rejoined the Brewers at Miller Park on Tuesday with his previous big league experience in his back pocket and his sights on his Saturday start against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.
"It's just an opportunity," Hellweg said. "I'm kind of getting my shot to show what I can do. You take an opportunity and run with it to earn a job for the next couple years."
Hellweg -- the No. 3 Brewers prospect, according to MLB.com -- will try to lower the 10.97 ERA he posted in three starts and a relief appearance in his first big league stint in late June and early July. More importantly, the right-hander, who was part of the Zack Greinke and Jean Segura trade last season, will have a chance to prove his dominance at Triple-A Nashville can translate to the big stage.
Brewers manager Ron Roenicke will be watching intently.
"I want to see what he's all about," Roenicke said. "I want to see him throw the same way he does [at Nashville] and see what happens. For him, yeah, this is an important time. He can make a certain impression on us going into next year that's really good."
Roenicke agreed to a comparison of Hellweg's chance to last season's callup of Wily Peralta. Peralta impressed in September with a 2.28 ERA in five starts, leading to his spot in the Brewers' rotation this year.
"Yeah, that's the way this could go," said Roenicke.
Hellweg earned Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Year honors for the 12-5 record and 3.15 ERA he posted in 23 starts at Nashville this season. In 125 2/3 innings, he struck out 89 and walked 81, while holding opposing hitters to a .228 average. At one point, Hellweg won eight consecutive starts -- five before his big league callup and three after an outing with Class A Wisconsin that he also won.
"[Winning PCL Pitcher of the Year] kind of just shows that I did what I needed to at Triple-A and now it's time to do that here," Hellweg said. "It's still the Minor Leagues down there at Triple-A, but it gives me a little bit of a confidence booster coming up here and giving this another shot."
• Left-hander Tom Gorzelanny will be examined Wednesday by head team physician Dr. William Raasch to determine the cause of his left shoulder injury. Gorzelanny felt "not quite right" in his start against the Pirates last week, then struggled to get loose for a relief appearance Monday and exited the game after two pitches.
"We'll see what we need to do," said Roenicke, who indicated Gorzelanny's status was day to day.
• National League home run leader Pedro Alvarez was out of the Pirates' lineup Tuesday. He entered the day 1-for-20 lifetime against Brewers starter Yovani Gallardo.
• First baseman/outfielder Sean Halton, the third player promoted Tuesday with Hellweg and Nelson, could start at first base Wednesday against Pirates left-hander Francisco Liriano.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. Kevin Massoth is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.