Saturday, August 16, 2014

The return of Ricky Nolasco

Ricky Nolasco's ERA
rose to 5.99 with his
poor outing Friday.
Ricky Nolasco's return from the disabled list Friday night was less than a success and not quite a disaster.

The veteran went six innings, allowing five runs, all of them in one awful inning. That was enough for Kansas City to prevail 6-5. Another Twins game in which the starter didn't give the team a chance to win.

One is tempted to focus on the glass half-full. Nolasco's fastball velocity was back to his accustomed levels. He did have five shutout innings.

But his command wasn't great, and the Royals had a number of hard-hit outs. Kansas City is a first-place team, but its record is built on run prevention (pitching and defense); their lineup is not notably potent. The Twins, as weak as they've been at the plate all year, have scored more runs than the Royals. Five runs allowed in six innings isn't good enough against any lineup, much less one as soft as the Royals.

Still, we know that a healthy Nolasco is going to be in the Twins rotation, now and into the future. That's what three more years at $12 million-plus a year means.

There's time for Nolasco to live up to the expectations of that deal. But right now, as I project a future Twins rotation, he ranks below Phil Hughes, Tommy Milone and Kyle Gibson. And it's conceivable -- maybe even expected -- that Alex Meyer will pass him as early as next season.

Conclusion: Nolasco is in the Twins plans. But he ought not be secure in those plans.

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