Twins' Nolasco has sore elbow, returns to Twin Cities for exam

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Ricky Nolasco, the Twins' big-money offseason signing, is 5-7 with a 5.90 ERA that is the highest among qualified starters in the American League.

Photo: Jerry Holt, Star Tribune

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– The Twins are bracing for news on righthander Ricky Nolasco, who flew back to the Twin Cities on Monday after admitting to them during a meeting that his elbow has been bothering him for several weeks.

Suspicions were raised Sunday when Nolasco’s velocity was down and his pitches were substandard during a two-inning outing against the Yankees. He gave up six runs in what became a 9-7 loss at Target Field.

Nolasco tried to tell manager Ron Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson he could pitch with the problem, but they would have none of that. Nolasco, who signed a four-year, $49 million contract as a free agent during the offseason, will be examined by Dr. John Steubs, Twins director of medical services.

Gardenhire said he had no problems with Nolasco trying to manage discomfort, but the results weren’t there. He is 5-7 overall with a 5.90 ERA that is the highest among qualified starters in the American League.

“He’s an old-school pitching guy,” Gardenhire said. “We went through it and asked, ‘How can we help you? What do we need to do to fix you?’ and he said, ‘You know what, I had a little bit of soreness in my elbow, it’s not a big deal but I can pitch through it.’ We said it is a big deal. Your velocity is down, the whole package.

“We knew what we brought here. We brought a very good pitcher with a great track record and right now you’re struggling.”

Assistant General Manager Rob Antony, who is on the Twins road trip, said Nolasco’s fastball sat between 87-89 miles per hour Sunday when he has been at 90-93 this year and 94 last year when they scouted him.

“After some coaxing, he admitted that he’s been struggling since spring training with a sore elbow he said he just can’t get loose,” Antony said. “He said it gets tight. Some days, it’s better than others.”

Should Nolasco had been more upfront?

“If every pitcher told me every day when they were feeling [discomfort] they would be lined up out that door,” Gardenhire said.

Nolasco is in line to start Friday at Colorado. Gardenhire said he has options on his roster and in the minors he could consider. Lefthander Kris Johnson is 8-4 with a 2.75 ERA at Class AAA Rochester after giving up one run over seven innings Sunday and is on the same schedule as Nolasco.

The Twins will wait to learn the results of Nolasco’s exam Tuesday, but are prepared to make to make a roster move.

“My opinion?” Gardenhire said. “It’s hard for me to think [Nolasco] is going to start on Friday if he has a sore elbow.”

Meyer for May

Trevor May was pulled out of the All-Star Futures Game because of a strained right calf muscle. While it’s a blow for May, the Twins were allowed to replace him with another top pitching prospect at Class AAA Rochester, Alex Meyer.

Meyer has been limited in his pitch counts because he missed considerable time last year due to a sore shoulder. He is 5-4 with a 3.46 ERA with 39 walks and 93 strikeouts in 83⅓ innings. In each of his past two outings, Meyer has given up one run over six innings while holding the opponent to three hits.

“He’s had his ups and downs. He’s had some tremendous games, and he’s had some games where he’s really struggled with his command,” Antony said. “But his last outing was very good and he had two or three before that he wasn’t as good. We know he has the pitches, we’re just looking for some consistency.”

Sano can go

Third base prospect Miguel Sano, who is recovering from Tommy John ligament replacement surgery on his right elbow, has been cleared to begin a throwing program.

Sano was examined Monday in New York by Dr. David Altchek, the specialist who performed surgery on him on March 12.

“He said his right elbow now looks stronger than his left,” said Rob Plummer, Sano’s agent.

It’s still unclear if Sano will be able to DH in late-season minor league games, but that’s what the Twins are hoping for. Even if Sano is unable to play in minor league games, he will be allowed to participate in offseason leagues like the Arizona Fall League and the Dominican Winter League.

Sano will begin his throwing program Tuesday in Fort Myers, Fla. He could be cleared to start swinging a bat next month.

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