Whoa Nellie! Reliever Set to Return

Could Jeff Nelson's return be a major addition to the Mariners bullpen?

The Seattle Mariners are expected to sign right-hander Jeff Nelson to a minor league contract as early as Monday and invite the 38-year-old to spring training as a non-roster player.

"This is where I want to be, where I've always wanted to be," Nelson told MLB.com.

Nelson was traded to the New York Yankees is August of 2003 after going public with his frustration that the club did not make a trade at the July 31 deadline. Nelson felt the team sorely needed a boost to enhance their chances at staying atop the division.

The M's ultimately folded and finished second behind the Oakland A's while Nelson was shipped to the Bronx here he went to the postseason with the Yankees.

It's tough to say how much Nelson has left in the tank but he isn't ready to acknowledge an "E" reading.

"Physically, I feel great right now and I'm not ready to (retire)," said Nelson.

The Mariner will bring Nelson and his 3.38 career ERA into Peoria to find out if he can help a bullpen that posted a 4.51 ERA last season.

"He can be a big help if he is 100%," said an American League scout. "His slider is still effective against righties and that's probably all Seattle would need him for."

Nelson has worked through his differences with the organization and when CEO Howard Lincoln was asked at FanFest if he had anything reservations againstthe idea of Nelson returning, his reply was that of a team representative that understands what is at stake with the current state of a franchise coming off of 99 losses.

"None whatsoever," Lincoln said. "We're here to win baseball games."

Nelson is entering his 14th season in the big leagues and his career opponent's average versus right-handed hitters sits at .203.

If used correctly, Nelson could solidify an otherwise unproven bullpen.

RHP Jeff Nelson
2004 Stats: 34 G, 5.59 ERA, 29 IP, 20 BB, 28 K, AA/AAA/MLB
An old soldier from the 2003 camp, Nelly is back on board the Good Ship Mariner again after talking to pitching coach Bryan Price, who got the ball rolling on the possibility of bringing back the team's all-time leader in appearances. The past season and a half has been injury plagued for the 38-year-old, but he's coming into spring training with his elbow and knee all cleaned up and ready to go. Those minor surgeries are likely to bring him somewhat closer to his old form, but at his age it's hard to tell how close he can get or how long he will be able to maintain a high level of effectiveness. He's an interesting wild card in the deck, if nothing else.

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