SEATTLE – The Twins on Tuesday placed right-hander Ricky Nolasco on the 15-day disabled list because of a strain of the flexor pronator muscle in his right elbow, an injury that has not been kind to Twins pitchers in recent years. Nolasco was examined by team physician Dr. John Steubs on Tuesday.
A magnetic resonance imaging exam of the elbow revealed no red flags, structurally, according to Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony. Nolasco’s ulnar collateral ligament — the one often associated with Tommy John ligament replacement surgery — was fine.
“The other side of the elbow, the flexor pronator, is sore,” Antony said. “A little stiff. He hasn’t dealt with it all season, but he has off and on.”
Antony said when Nolasco was asked why he didn’t mention the injury before, Nolasco replied that he ‘didn’t want to be the guy who just got a big deal and had to go on the DL.’ ”
Nolasco, who is guaranteed $49 million through 2017, is 5-7 with a 5.90 ERA in his first season with the Twins. The Twins will have him go through rehabilitation before he returns.
“I think we’re going to let it quiet down a little bit then get him going and build it back up,” Antony said. “Hopefully when he starts throwing again and gets back on his program, he won’t have that issue and he will be able to get loose and get him back out there as soon as possible.”
There are no guarantees Nolasco will be ready to pitch when his 15-day DL stint expires July 22. Other Twins with similar injuries were out longer. Cole De Vries missed time last season because of a sore flexor pronator, pitched a total of 90 innings between the majors and minors and now is out of baseball. Scott Baker had problems with his flexor pronator in 2012 and needed surgery to have it repaired, but it was decided then that he needed Tommy John surgery as well. And Anthony Slama’s 2011 season ended in July because of flexor pronator problems.
Chris Herrmann was called up from Class AAA Rochester to take Nolasco’s place on the roster. The catcher-outfielder and occasional first baseman was batting .314 with two homers and 15 RBI for the Red Wings.
The Twins need a starter Friday in Colorado and have a few options. They could use righthander Samuel Deduno or righthander Anthony Swarzak, both long relievers. Swarzak could have an edge because GM Terry Ryan said last week that Deduno might have found his niche as an innings-eater in the bullpen. Lefthander Kris Johnson, 8-4 with 2.75 ERA at Rochester, is scheduled to pitch on the same day that Nolasco would have, and he could be called up for one start.
Going slow with Sano
The Twins will take things slowly with third base prospect Miguel Sano, who has been cleared to begin a throwing program after having Tommy John surgery in March.
Sano will not race to try to play in late-season minor league games or in the offseason Arizona Fall League. However, he could participate in the second half of the Dominican winter league.
“They just don’t want to risk any collisions, sliding into second base, hitting his elbow,” Antony said. “I don’t think they want him to compete before we get to the nine-month mark.”
Sano will spend the time in Fort Myers, Fla., working out at the Twins’ facility.
“Basically we’re going to keep him under control in the minors,” Antony said. “Continue to do everything to build him back up. He can work out and start getting his timing back, but [we’ll] keep him out of harm’s way.”
• Outfielder Sam Fuld said his right hip still was a little sore, but he was able to start in center field Tuesday against Seattle. Fuld hurt himself as he jumped at the wall in an attempt to rob Michael Saunders of a home run Monday.