Nolasco named Opening Day starter mid-game
Right-hander is franchise leader in wins, innings pitched, strikeouts
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The announcement was made on the mound, in the middle of a pitching change.
Marlins manager Mike Redmond came out to relieve Ricky Nolasco, who was terrific in 3 2/3 innings. But after taking the ball, Redmond had an "Oh, by the way" moment.
"I told him, 'Hey, I'm taking you out, but you're the Opening Day starter,'" Redmond said.
Never one to get too emotional, Nolasco turned and said: "Well, then, we better win."
The news was highly expected.
Entering his eighth season with the Marlins, Nolasco is the franchise's all-time leader in wins (76), innings pitched (1,113 1/3) and strikeouts (911).
At this point, Redmond isn't ready to reveal the rest of the rotation.
Thursday was Nolasco's moment.
The right-hander was efficient and effective on a day he actually was the losing pitcher.
New York, behind 4 1/3 hitless innings from Matt Harvey, beat the Marlins, 4-1, at Tradition Field.
Nolasco, making his second start of the spring, was charged with an unearned run in the second inning, but otherwise, it was an impressive performance.
"He knows how to pitch. He knows the league," Redmond said. "I think he will definitely help some of our young guys about how to pitch certain hitters in certain situations. That experience, we don't have a lot of that, whether it is in the bullpen or with our starters. He's that guy who definitely our young guys will look to for a little guidance."
Nolasco previously had an Opening Day start in 2009.
Redmond told the media after Thursday's game that Nolasco would start, long after the right-hander had left the ballpark.
Nolasco's performance was impressive on a day the Marlins didn't have much else to cheer about, especially his six strikeouts and throwing 40 strikes in 59 pitches.
"Obviously, results, when they are good, that's nice," Nolasco said. "When they're not, it doesn't really matter. I'm just trying to stretch out and get a feel for all my pitches. I didn't walk anybody, so that was good."
On Thursday, he was on the mark, especially with his off-speed pitches.
"They're never usually a problem," Nolasco said of his breaking pitches. "But they're sharper than normal right now, early in camp. I've been working on them. I expect them to get better. All is good so far."
Nolasco, who allowed three hits, is Miami's first pitcher to throw as many as three full innings this spring.
In the third inning, he found his stride, throwing 11 pitches with nine strikes.
"I just threw everything, and I got a lot of swing and misses on a lot of different pitches," Nolasco said. "I'm just happy with the way things went. I'm feeling better and better each time out."
On a young team, the right-hander is expected to provide stability atop the rotation.
"He continues to pound the strike zone," Redmond said. "He's done a nice job over his starts of throwing strikes and commanding his off-speed pitches. Continue to build off that. From what I've seen so far, he's done a really nice job."
With Nolasco, there is nothing flashy. He just provides consistency.
The right-hander has a knack for pitching, and collects his share of wins, while posting a 4.49 career ERA.
Nolasco has won at least 10 games in five straight seasons.
A year ago, he was 12-13 with a 4.48 ERA in 31 starts and 191 innings. Twice in his career, he has reached the 200-innings mark.
On Thursday, Nolasco retired the side in order in the first inning, getting help from Chone Figgins in right field. Figgins made a terrific sliding catch near the foul line to haul in Jordany Valdespin's fly ball. And he struck out Ike Davis looking on a breaking ball to retire the side.
In the second inning, Nolasco surrendered an unearned run on two hits.
Marlon Byrd opened the inning with a single to left. Nolasco then struck out Lucas Duda and John Buck, but on strike three to Buck, Byrd was running.
Rob Brantly made a perfect throw to second, and Byrd would have been out by a wide margin, but second baseman Chris Valaika couldn't handle the throw. An error was charged, and the Mets capitalized.
Six pitches later, Anthony Recker laced an RBI single to left.
In the fourth inning, Nolasco struck out Byrd with a runner on second. It was the second out of the inning, but being at 59 pitches, he was lifted.
"I felt like I could have stayed in. But the plan is the plan," Nolasco said. "There is nothing wrong with that. They wanted to be around 60 pitches, and there is still a long way to go.
"I was feeling better as the game went on."