SEATTLE — Ricky Nolasco has had a rough month, but Paul Molitor hasn’t given up on him. Far from it, actually.
Nolasco makes his final start of May this afternoon under the Safeco Field roof, the finish to a pretty wretched month after a promising April. The 33-year-old righthander has an 8.14 ERA in five May starts, and he’s never beaten the Mariners.
But Molitor believes there’s a pretty simple factor that would turn things around for his most enigmatic starter: Throwing his fastball for strikes.
“He needs to have command, particularly of his fastball, to make his curveball and slider effective,” the manager said. “When it becomes a little more predictable that he’s going to try to trick you more than challenge you, guys get better swings at those pitches.”
Nolasco’s troubles come at an interesting time, with Kyle Gibson close to returning to the rotation. Molitor declined again to pinpoint what the team’s plans are for his return, saying simply “we’re going to have to figure that out.”
But he remains supportive of Nolasco. “He’s been really good for me, in terms of how I feel he’s going about it. He went through the whole thing of getting him in better shape, and he’s taken care of those type of things,” Molitor said. “His arm strength’s better. I think his fastball is probably a tick up from where it was a couple years ago. There are things that have made me believe [that] if he’s got his pitches going, he can go out there and beat anybody.”
If he can beat Seattle today, the Twins will have an unlikely sweep against a first-place team that was on a hot streak when they arrived. Minnesota hasn’t swept the Mariners here since 2007, and they were 4-19 on the road when they arrived. But they’ve hit .297 over the past five games, and have five home runs in the first two games here, so the offense is coming around.
Kurt Suzuki feels better today after having to leave last night’s game following another foul tip, but he’s getting another day off. Still, Molitor said Suzuki should be able to avoid the disabled list.
Here are the lineups for today’s finale in Seattle: