Twins have a new spin on the starting rotation

The Twins should get more strikeouts and longer starts after signing Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes.


Twins pitcher Phil Hughes got a lite workout Sunday Feb 16. 2014 in Fort Myers, Florida Lee County Sports Complex.

Photo: Jerry Holt, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

– Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson has directed starting rotations that have dominated and some recent ones that have been disasters.

With spring training opening Monday, Anderson said he believes he’ll have a starting five that will embrace a different ‘D’ word: dependable.

“This is the first time in about three years that we come to spring training with a little bit of an idea of what you have,” Anderson said.

Anderson appears particularly upbeat this year. Two reasons are because Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes are now Twins.

The club committed $73 million in salary to the two starters in an effort to improve a staff that has posted a 5.08 ERA over the past three season — the worst in baseball during that period. Nolasco, 31, was 13-11 with a 3.70 ERA last season with the Marlins and Dodgers but 8-3 with a 3.52 ERA in 16 games (15 starts) with playoff-bound Los Angeles following a midseason trade. Hughes was 4-14 with a 5.19 ERA with the Yankees — ugly, indeed. But the Twins believe Hughes, who won 18 games in 2010 and 16 in 2012, can return to that form. After all, he’s still only 27.

Who can blame the Twins for feeling optimistic? It’s spring training, where hope is in full bloom and every team is 0-0.

The Twins have learned from the past couple of seasons that nothing is worse for a team than starting pitchers who often had them trailing 3-0 after two innings. And nothing gives a team more confidence than starters who regularly can pitch deep into games.

The Twins offense might be under reconstruction well into the regular season, but teams can still contend with good pitching and a little run support. The Twins, after three consecutive seasons of between 96 and 99 losses, are willing to embrace that formula this season.

“We believe we have done a good job of addressing that with Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes,” Twins assistant GM Rob Antony said, “and with Mike Pelfrey and Kevin Correia. We wanted to get back to having five starters who give us a chance to stay in the game, not give us situations when we are down 3-0, 4-0 sometimes in the first inning. That demoralizes a team.”

Knowing he was wanted

The Twins locked in on Nolasco early in the offseason and never ended the courtship. He was 81-72 in seven-plus seasons with the Marlins, and the Twins have been impressed at how he has matured in recent seasons. It doesn’t hurt that Nolasco thrived under the Hollywood lights with the Dodgers, where Zack Greinke, Hanley Ramirez, Matt Kemp and rookie Yasiel Puig made headlines.

“It seemed like [Nolasco] was very confident,” Antony said. “It wasn’t a false confidence, it was the confidence of a guy who had gotten it done before, knows what he needs to do and knows what he brings. He’s a guy we expect to solidify and bolster a rotation that wasn’t good last year.”

So the Twins made Nolasco their most expensive free-agent signing ever, giving him $49 million over four years with an option for 2018.

Anderson did his homework as well, calling Marlins manager and former Twins catcher Mike Redmond. The two Washington state natives reveled in Seattle’s Super Bowl shellacking of Denver before Anderson asked what to expect from Nolasco.

“He said, ‘Andy, you are going to love him,’ ” Anderson said. “He works his tail off. He’s a gamer. And he battles.”

Nolasco, who should be a candidate to take the ball on Opening Day, has accepted the challenge the Twins have laid out for him.

“They reached out on Day 1 and they never stopped,” Nolasco said. “That’s a good feeling to have someone come after you like that and make you feel wanted. I’m happy for the change of a new city in Minnesota, definitely happy to try to help this team try to turn things around and get back to winning.”

Leaving the Big Apple

  • related content

  • Souhan: Spring facility is being upgraded; will Twins be?

    Sunday February 16, 2014

    New arms are here. Phenoms are waiting. But victories are what the Twins need most.

  • Chart: Previewing the Twins' pitching

    Saturday February 15, 2014

    the rotation heading into campRicky Nolasco, RHP: Has won double-digit games in six consecutive seasons and has struck out 7.4...

  • Around the horn: A look at the Twins by position

    Saturday February 15, 2014

    Who’s on first?  That we know. But there will be plenty of competition at other spots when the Twins’ camp begins.

  • Twins spring training schedule

    Wednesday March 5, 2014

    February28 - at Boston, 12:05 PMMarch1 - vs. Boston, 12:05 PM2 - at Tampa Bay, 12:05 PM3 - at Baltimore,...

  • A key stat for new Twins starter Ricky Nolasco: The righthander has struck out 7.4 batters per nine innings over his career.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


Baltimore - LP: W. Chen 1 FINAL
Boston - WP: J. Masterson 7
Chicago Cubs - WP: J. Arrieta 5 FINAL
Pittsburgh - LP: A. Caminero 2
NY Yankees - LP: C. Sabathia 1 FINAL
Detroit - WP: A. Simon 2
Cincinnati - WP: A. DeSclafani 6 FINAL
Milwaukee - LP: W. Peralta 1
Cleveland - LP: C. Allen 3 FINAL
Chicago WSox - WP: D. Robertson 4
Minnesota - LP: K. Gibson 1 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: E. Volquez 7
San Diego - WP: O. Despaigne 14 FINAL
Colorado - LP: J. De La Rosa 3
Oakland - WP: D. Otero 6 FINAL
LA Angels - LP: M. Shoemaker 3
Houston - WP: T. Sipp 7 FINAL
Seattle - LP: D. Farquhar 5
Milwaukee 82 FINAL
Chicago 91
New Orleans 87 FINAL
Golden State 97
NY Rangers 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh 1
St. Louis 0 FINAL
Minnesota 3
Anaheim 5 FINAL(OT)
Winnipeg 4
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: What are your plans for the Twins' home opener?

Weekly Question