Ricky Nolasco takes Twins fifth-starter role
That one of the largest free agent contracts in Twins history belongs to none other than Ricky Nolasco can be used as a stand-in for several larger points. It can be an example of how extreme the market for free agent pitching has become; it can be ammunition for fans frustrated with the front office; it can be a cautionary tale about the volatility of middle-of-the-rotation pitching. And in addition to representing all of the above, Nolasco and his contract can now represent something else—the Twins’ fifth starter.
Nolasco was given Minnesota’s final rotation slot over 25-year-old Tyler Duffey, who debuted in the majors last year and was optioned to Triple-A Rochester Tuesday. As a rookie, Duffey showed he was perfectly capable of holding his own, following up a rough first start with nine games where he put up nearly a strikeout per inning with a 2.25 ERA. A spot in the 2016 rotation was thought to be on the horizon for the Rice University product, but at least to start the year, it’s not to be.
It’s true that Nolasco had a markedly better spring training than did Duffey, who struggled through some rather ugly outings while trying to introduce a changeup into his arsenal. But it’s likely that the Twins’ decision had more to do with the fact that Duffey has an option remaining while the 33-year-old Nolasco is owed $25 million. Watching the struggling Nolasco take the ball every fifth day won’t be fun, but it should give Twins fans some context to better appreciate Duffey when he’s called up later this year.
Closer spot remains a question mark for the Phillies
Less than a week from Opening Day, the fate of the Phillies’ closer position is unclear. Dalier Hinojosa, David Hernandez and Andrew Bailey all entered spring training as potential choices for the role, and while Bailey appears to be out of the running for the time being, the competition between the first two pitchers is a toss-up now more than ever. Asked by MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki whether the Phillies would decide on an established closer at all, new GM Matt Klentak gave an answer that might be read as somewhat cryptic: “You’ll find out. So will I.”
For analytically minded Phillies fans who carry the memory of the Amaro administration painfully fresh in their minds, Klentak’s statement might have been cause for brief excitement—perhaps the new regime is moving away from a traditional closer and toward a system of using the best reliever in the highest-leverage situation? But the quotes from manager Pete Mackanin that follow seem to indicate otherwise. They’d very much like a traditional closer, he said, but they aren’t sure if they’re positioned to make a decision just yet.
Health is a concern for Hernandez, who struggled in his return from Tommy John last year, posting his highest DRA since he was a rookie and his lowest strikeout rate since 2010. He’s battled elbow soreness this spring, though he’s said to be ready to open the season.
Meanwhile, Hinojosa’s major-league track record is short, but it’s looked fairly nice. The Cuban righty made his major-league debut last year at age 29, racking up 23 strikeouts in 25 innings and posting a DRA of 2.17.
Matt Harvey is fine for Opening Day, after all
Over the past 36 hours, Matt Harvey’s health has given the Internet the opportunity to showcase two of the things it does best—panicking over limited information and making bathroom jokes. We began only with the knowledge that Harvey was seeing a doctor for an issue not related to baseball, the result of the pitcher exhibiting a “symptom” that needed to be “investigated,” per Mets GM Sandy Alderson as reported by Newsday’s Marc Carig. The initial discourse was light, speculative but not alarmist. Then, however, it got more serious. Travis d’Arnaud said that he was praying for his teammate, noting that no one knew what was going on, and that was all it took to trigger any number of vague-but-panicked theories about Harvey’s wellbeing. By Tuesday afternoon, however, all had been resolved. The team announced that Harvey had been treated for a bladder infection that had caused minor clots, leaving him clear to start on Opening Day as planned and the Internet free to indulge in plenty of bathroom humor.