JUPITER, Fla. — Ricky Nolasco stood in the Miami Marlins spring training clubhouse sounding like a man who gladly would surrender his status as the rotation’s elder statesman.
At 30, Nolasco said he didn’t see himself as a mentor to the staff’s young guns.
“Nah. I’m going to be the same,” he said Tuesday morning. “I’m a quiet guy by nature. I’m not going to change that. I’m going to keep going about my business and do what I have to do to prepare myself.”
A year ago, it was easy for Nolasco to go about his business on the day that pitchers and catchers reported to camp. If media members wanted to discuss the state of the Marlins rotation, then-newcomer Mark Buehrle and ace Josh Johnson were more likely to be surrounded by tape recorders and cameras. Veteran Anibal Sanchez was available, too.
Not this year.
Buehrle and Johnson were dealt in the offseason blockbuster with Toronto. Sanchez went to Detroit before last season’s trade deadline.
Instead of relishing his de facto leadership role with Miami, Nolasco, through his agent in December, expressed a desire to pitch elsewhere because he didn’t want to be part of a major reconstruction.
“I’m not going to talk anything about that; it happened,” Nolasco told FOX Sports Florida on Saturday during the team’s Fanfest at Marlins Park. “I’m just trying to focus on what I have to do for spring training and get ready to pitch to help this organization as much as I can.”
Nolasco donned his Marlins uniform Tuesday and joined other pitchers and catchers in the spring’s first workout at Roger Dean Stadium. The full squad will report Friday.
Marlins rookie manager Mike Redmond was glad to see the veteran right-hander.
“To have a guy that’s been in the big leagues is big,” Redmond said. “We’re so young, and he’s young — he’s not so old.
“Anybody that’s taking the ball in the big leagues and gone through major league seasons is gonna be huge. Just to have somebody to talk to, ‘Hey, what’s it like facing this guy? What’s it like facing that guy?’ ”
In all likelihood, Nolasco will continue to be a good teammate. He’ll answer questions when asked and be there for young pitchers such as Jacob Turner, Nathan Eovaldi and Henderson Alvarez — three righties expected to be part of the rotation.
It’s just that Nolasco’s primary job won’t be as tutor, it’ll be trying to win games — something he has done before. He has compiled double-digit victories in six of his seven major league seasons and owns a career mark of 76-64 with a 4.49 ERA.
A member of the Marlins rotation since 2006, Nolasco is the team’s all-time leader in wins, losses and strikeouts (911).
He’s also the highest-paid Marlin with a base salary of $11.5 million — something that means his name likely will come up in trade rumors through the summer. For now, Nolasco figures to be the Opening Day starter for a team many project to finish last in the NL East.
“It’s no different than any other year; we play in a tough division,” Nolasco said. “People always write us off every year — that’s nothing new. This division is always going to be tough no matter who plays for us. So, we can’t be worried about that.
“We just have to be worried about coming together as a team and taking it one game at a time. We’re going to have major league players out there on the field just like every other team.”