CHICAGO – Twins righthander Ricky Nolasco threw in the bullpen Saturday. When he was done, pitching coach Rick Anderson approached him, the two did a fist bump and smiled.
Nolasco hasn’t pitched since July 6 because of a flexor pronator strain in his elbow but is headed for a rehabilitation start on Tuesday at Class A Cedar Rapids.
Nolasco backed off of long toss throwing drills — which helps keep arms strong — because he was trying to nurse an injury he thought was minor. But his velocity dropped a mile an hour a month, from 93 miles per hour to 90, and he struggled to repeat his mechanics.
Rehabbing has gone very well, and the Twins are anxious to see how different Nolasco will look in games.
“His arm slot is 100 times better,” Anderson said. “He told me last week when we started doing bullpen work that his arm felt better than it has in two years. He’s thrown three bullpens now and his arm slot is where it should be, where it was in the past.”
Nolasco will throw around 50 pitches on Tuesday then throw around 75 on Sunday. Anderson said that will be enough for him to return to the club, provided he stays healthy.
Nolasco is 5-7 with a 5.90 ERA after signing with the Twins during the offseason for four years and $49 million.
Abreu’s streaks end
White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu popped out in the first inning Saturday, ending his streak of getting on base at 10 consecutive plate appearances. But after falling behind 0-2, he battled back to get the count to 3-2 before popping up on the eighth pitch of the at-bat. The rookie slugger from Cuba is tough to slow down these days.
How do you get him out? One way, Anderson said, is to not let him get comfortable and pitch him hard inside.
“Make him aware,” Anderson said, “that you can get in there.”
Abreu went 0-for-3 Saturday to end his hitting streak at 21 games.
Eddie Rosario, a second baseman-outfielder at Class AA New Britain, was back in the lineup Saturday after being benched for four games. Brad Steil, the Twins’ director of minor league operations, said the benching was because of a “team-related situation” and would not provide further comment,
Rosario, batting .237 with five home runs and 19 RBI, served a 50-game suspension at the beginning of the season for a second violation of baseball’s drug policy. Rosario admitted to the Star Tribune that the drug was marijuana. He has been unable to find the stroke that made him one of the organization’s top hitting prospects, hitting .204 since the All-Star break.
Rosario also was benched for a couple games last season at Class A Fort Myers for a poor approach to the game.
Rosario isn’t the only Twins prospect to be benched. Class A Cedar Rapids righthander Hudson Boyd, the 55th overall pick in 2011, hasn’t appeared in a game since July 24 for violating team rules during a recent road trip. Steil said Boyd should be back in action soon.
Righthanders Kohl Stewart and Jose Berrios — two of the Twins’ top pitching prospects — are sidelined because of shoulder injuries. Both are expected to climb on a mound by the end of the week and could return to game action in two weeks.
• The Twins on Friday wore red uniforms tops for the first time this season. One reason: to change their luck after going 4-9 after the All-Star break.