Wednesday afternoon, Minnesota Twins ace Ricky Nolasco made his last scheduled start of Spring Training against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Nolasco was coming off easily his worst outing of the spring, giving up seven earned runs through only three innings against the New York Mets last week. Before any real concern could show its teeth, however, Nolasco stepped up to silence critics, ending his preseason on the highest note.
In arguably Nolasco’s best outing this spring, the fiery right-hander allowed only one hit through four scoreless innings. Nolasco worked almost entirely in the bottom half of the strike zone, and had his sharp breaking ball biting at its finest. He struck out three batters, including a first inning punch-out of reigning NL MVP Andrew McCutchen.
Overall this spring, Nolasco looked solid and seemed very confident toeing the rubber in every outing. Outside of one hiccup, Nolasco threw 15 innings to the tune of a 2.40 ERA with only one walk and eight strikeouts.
At 31 years old, Nolasco has a career 4.37 ERA, and has thrown more than 190 innings in each of the last three seasons. In 2013, he worked a 3.70 ERA, 7.4 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 over 199.1 innings.
Now, as the biggest free agent signing in Twins history, Nolasco will look to surpass the high expectations laid out in front of him. He joins, and will lead a revamped Minnesota rotation in 2014 consisting of Phil Hughes, Kevin Correia, Mike Pelfrey and Kyle Gibson. Much of the Twins’ success in the upcoming season hinges on Nolasco’s performance and the way it transfers down the rotation ladder.
Monday will be the third Opening Day start of Nolasco’s career. Expect him to set the tone early for Minnesota in the team’s bounce-back hopeful 2014 campaign.