Ricky Nolasco hasn’t pitched in the Twins’ past 96 games. But don’t rule him out of the final 17.
The righthanded starter, off to a 5-1 start this season before suffering an ankle injury May 31 that required surgery, threw 35 pitches off a bullpen mound Wednesday, and impressed the Twins enough to proceed with a get-him-ready plan that could have him pitching for real sometime during the season’s final week.
“I’m proud of what he’s done to get himself ready,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. He made it clear that, with 18 pitchers on the active roster, it would take some unusual circumstances for Nolasco to reach the mound this month, but he’s not ruling it out, either.
Nolasco will throw a couple of innings in a simulated game Friday, and if all goes well, he’ll travel to Fort Myers, Fla., this weekend for the opening of the fall instructional league on Monday, where he’ll have 45 pitches against rookie hitters. And if that goes well?
“You never know,” Molitor said. “There might be opportunities that come up, and there might not be, and he knows full well that I’m not going to force it to happen if it’s not a natural thing.”
Nolasco is OK with that, though. He came to camp determined, he said, to prove that his disappointing 2014 was an aberration. But an elbow injury suffered during his first start of the season sent him to the disabled list, and the ankle impingement in May appeared to finish his season for good.
“Talking to him today, he said, ‘I have memories of some of those games I pitched early, and how much fun it was for me to be able to spin the ball and get people out.’ He said, ‘I’ve never been through three years like this in my life, where I’ve had to deal with frustration on the mound, or not being on the mound at all,’ ” Molitor said. “You just sense the professionalism and a hunger there to do what he can do to try to see if there’s any way he can pitch here. And if not, it’s going to help him going forward.”
It’s also not out of the question that he could help should the Twins reach the postseason, since fellow righthander Ervin Santana is ineligible to participate as part of his performance-enhancing drugs suspension.
Torii Hunter has donated more than $1 million to the Torii Hunter Project, a program that has already donated baseball equipment to hundreds of youth leagues and provided college scholarships to more than 100 underprivileged students. He’s provided baseball tickets for thousands of children with the “Hunter’s Homies” program. And he has been one of the Boys & Girls Clubs’ top fundraisers.
Which is why Wednesday, he was nominated for the third time in his career for the Roberto Clemente Award, given annually to a player who makes contributions to his community as well as his team.
“When you mention my name in the same breath as Roberto Clemente, it’s special for me,” Hunter said. “At the end of the day, you can affect more people off the field than on it, and those contributions can carry on for a lifetime. Whether it’s kids, homeless kids, feeding the hungry, whatever it may be, you can impact people for a lifetime.”
Each team nominates one player for the award, and the recipient will be announced during the World Series.
• Glen Perkins threw Wednesday and reported no problems. If the closer recovers normally Thursday, he will be available in the bullpen on Friday.
• Logan Darnell remained out sick Wednesday, after his condition was diagnosed as pneumonia. The righthander was called up Sept. 4 from Class AAA Rochester but has not pitched since he arrived. “He’s doing better,” Molitor said. “He’s been out for six days without baseball activity, so he’s going to have to work to get himself back to pitch.”