Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Ricky Nolasco Begins His Redemption

Today the Minnesota Twins take the field at Comerica Park for their second game of the 2015 Major League Baseball season. After dropping the first contest at the hands of David Price, the Twins will go up against Anibal Sanchez in game two. On the mound for the good guys in Ricky Nolasco, who will set out to start his 2015 of redemption.

After signing the richest free agent contract (at the time) in Minnesota Twins history, 2014 became a disaster for the former Marlins pitcher. Pitching through injury much of the season, he compiled a 5.38 ERA across 27 starts while striking out a career low 6.5 K/9. A dependable 200 inning pitcher, Nolasco threw just 159 innings for the Twins a year ago, and very few of them were quality.

Today, as he takes the mound in Detroit, Nolasco will be looking to begin what he hopes to be a turnaround year. At 32 years old and with nine big league seasons under his belt, the understanding of what Nolasco is as a pitcher should be pretty well documented. Not a high volume strikeout guy, Nolasco is capable of missing a few bats, and he can keep you competitive. An ERA somewhere in the high three to low four range should also be expected. While none of that rings spectacular, it is all a massive step forward from where he was at a season ago.

In 2014, Nolasco posted his highest FIP (fielding independent pitching) since his debut in the major leagues at 4.30. Considering a lackluster Twins defense behind him, that only aided to balloon his ERA over 5.00. The long ball was also an issue for Nolasco in 2014. Having not given up 20 or more home runs since 2011, Nolasco allowed 22 home runs to opposing batters a season ago. While struggling to strike batters out, allowing runs in bunches was only going to spell disaster for the California native.

This season, Nolasco should be expected to turn the page, if for no other reason than his health. After being brought in by the Twins, much was made of the signing. The club made Nolasco out to be a staff ace and an incredible innings eater. With the number attached to his contract, there was no doubt a considerable amount of pressure to fulfill those definitions. Never capable of being a true ace, Nolasco was in an uphill battle before he even got started. Combining that notion with trying to eat innings while at less than 100%, disaster quickly became the reality.

With an offseason to heal under his belt, and the certainty of where he will play this year, Nolasco enters the 2015 season in a different frame of mind. In 22.2 innings pitched this spring, Nolasco owned a 3.97 ERA. His five home runs surrendered down in Florida led the team, and again could be a cause for concern this season. He did however strike out batters at a higher clip than a season ago, and will need to miss more bats if he is going to be successful this year.

At the end of the day, today sets in motion Nolasco's 2015 season, but hardly defines it. Regardless of the outcome of this one start, Nolasco will need to build early confidence and push forward throughout the year. A ten hit, five run outing against the White Sox was how 2014 began, and is not what Nolasco wants today. No matter what happens however, Nolasco will need to focus on keeping a short memory, and pushing himself back to the pitcher he built himself off of being.

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