PHOENIX — From chilly Hillsboro to smoggy Reno, the baseball journeys of Diamondbacks pitchers Ryne Nelson and Drey Jameson have always been intertwined.
Their careers started in Short-A Hillsboro (Oregon), where the pair was put together as roommates. The pitchers’ careers continued down the same path and the pair pitched together throughout their time in the minor leagues.
“We’ve been going through it together and we’ve been grinding and talking about a day like this for a long time. So it means a lot that I get to share it with him,” Nelson said. “Man. Me and Dre. We got drafted together. We’ve played together every single year. We were roommates in low-A and then like always just been around each other every single year, spring training.”
Nelson was selected in the second round of the 2019 draft, while Jameson was drafted the same year in the compensation round. The Diamondbacks had received the compensation pick when outfielder AJ Pollock rejected his qualifying offer in 2018. The duo arrived at Hillsboro shortly after and have spent the last four years rising through the farm system.
“Ryne Nelson, he’s like my roommate all three years growing through Provo and I’ve just kind of asked him like little stuff, like how’s this work, how’s this work, little things like that. But other than that, I mean, you show up and play baseball,” Jameson said.
Nelson received his call to the show on Sept. 5 and has pitched two shutouts in his first two career starts. He was named the Diamondbacks 2021 Minor League Pitcher of the Year with a 7-4 record, 3.17 ERA in 22 starts with High-A Hillsboro and Double-A Amarillo.
“It was awesome. I think it’s a day that I’ll never forget and I’m still replaying it in my head over and over again,” Nelson said of his first career major league start against the Padres.
In the beginning of the 2022 season with Triple-A Reno, Nelson went 10-5 with a 5.43 ERA over 26 starts. However, Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said teams cannot base pitchers’ performances based on how they do in Reno.
“I didn’t want to comment about what the numbers were. I want to just kind of set that aside. We know that it is a very rugged environment there (in Reno),” Lovullo said. “Ninety-one mile-an-hour fly balls, 91-mile-an-hour exit velocity fly balls are flying out of that ballpark and that happens at the big league level sometimes, but not very often. We evaluate the stuff and not the results. That’s the reason why our young pitchers (Jameson and Nelson) have inflated numbers, not just the three that have been coming up here.”
For Jameson, it was similar, with High-A Hillsboro and Double-A Amarillo. Jameson was 5-6 with a 3.98 ERA across 20 starts, but when he was with Triple-A Reno he had an ERA above six.
Reno has the worst air quality in the United States, which makes it tough on pitchers to perform at their best. Multiple games have been canceled this season citing air quality concerns.
“Reno’s tough,” Jameson said. “Definitely not the outcomes that I wanted, but overall I think I’ve progressed in pitching. I mean, you just gotta kind of take it with a grain of salt. If I go in after the game, I watch video and I execute pitches and sometimes hitters are just gonna beat you, it’s part of the game. So, the PCL (Pacific Coast League), it’s not fun to pitch in, but at the same time, it’s gonna prepare you for the big leagues and places like (high altitude) Colorado, things like that.”
In Nelson’s first two career starts with the Diamondbacks against the Dodgers and Padres, he pitched 13.0 innings and only allowed six hits, no earned runs and recorded 13 strikeouts. Nelson is the first Diamondbacks pitcher to not allow a run in his first two major league career starts.
In Jameson’s first career start against the Padres on Sept 15, he pitched seven scoreless innings, allowing only two hits.
“I gave him a nice big hug and told him (Jameson) congrats and it’s just awesome to see him. I mean, we’re really, really good friends and like I said, it’s something we’ve been talking about for a long time,” Nelson said of the duo reaching the big leagues together.
Nelson went 5 1/3 innings Sunday against the Padres, allowing three hits, three earned runs and three strikeouts before being taken out at the top of the sixth inning when a ball ricocheted off his right arm.
Lovullo said after the game that he couldn’t risk a young pitching arm after hearing where Nelson was hit. He went on to say that Nelson had just suffered a bone bruise. On Wednesday, the Diamondbacks placed the right-handler on the 15-day injured due to right scapula inflammation.
With the duo close in age – Nelson is 24, Jameson is 25 – the sky’s the limit as to what they’ll be able to accomplish together in the big leagues. While the season is coming to an end, Nelson and Jameson look forward to making an impact with a young Diamondbacks squad for years to come.
“My goal is, I mean, just to keep putting quality outs together, shutouts are definitely nice to have, but you can’t always count on them, so if I can just keep doing what I can stay healthy, I’ll do my best out there. I think I’ll be happy,” Nelson said.