CLEVELAND, Ohio - Former UC Santa Barbara left handed pitcher Kyle Nelson was promoted from the alternate camp to the Cleveland Indians big-league roster, the club announced on Wednesday. Nelson will join Shane Bieber, his former Gaucho teammate and arguably the top pitcher in Major League Baseball in 2020.
Nelson pitched at UCSB from 2015-17, including 2015-16 with Bieber.
"We are pumped for Nelly," said head coach Andrew Checketts. "He's a warrior and was a big part of our regional host team in '15 and College World Series run in '16. Seeing him join Shane in the big leagues is amazing. We look forward to watching him compete at the highest level and hopefully stick with the MLB club through a playoff run this year."
In his first two seasons as a Gaucho, the native of San Francisco was the team's top reliever before becoming a starting pitcher as a junior in 2017. As a freshman, he had a 3-1 record, two saves and a 0.75 ERA in 36.0 innings over a team-leading 25 appearances. That team advanced to the NCAA Tournament and actually hosted a Regional in Lake Elsinore, Calif.
As a sophomore in 2016, Nelson was Named First Team All-Big West and was among the best relievers in the nation. In 33 appearances, including 32 out of the bullpen, he was 7-2 with 10 saves, a 2.18 ERA and 87 strikeouts in 74.1 innings. He opened the season with 22 consecutive scoreless innings, extending a two-season streak to 27 in a row, the longest of the Andrew Checketts era at UCSB. Nelson was a vital part of the Gaucho team that advanced to the 2016 College World Series and, in fact, he had two saves, a 1.64 ERA and 14 strikeouts in 11 innings over four postseason appearances. One of his saves came in a CWS victory over the University of Miami.
In 2017, the year he made the shift from reliever to starter, Nelson was named Preseason All-America by Collegiate Baseball, Baseball America and the NCBWA. He finished the year with a 6-4 record, a 4.53 ERA and 69 strikeouts in 87.1 innings. He led the team in starts, innings and strikeouts and his opponent batting average of .230 was the fourth lowest in the Big West among qualified pitchers.
Nelson, 24, was selected by the Indians in the 15th round of the 2017 draft. He recorded a combined ERA of 2.28 with seven saves for three minor-league teams last season -- Lynchburg, Akron and Columbus -- and was named an MiLB.com Organizational All-Star in 2018.
Cleveland Interim Manager Sandy Alomar, Jr., told the Cleveland Plain-Dealer/Cleveland.com that Nelson's fastball "tops out around 92 MPH and he has a slider that can wipe left-handed hitters out." He said the Indians will take a good look at Nelson on the major-league level.
"He has a pretty good arm and a good Tempo," Alomar said. "We'll see when the opportunity arises and see what he can do."