Minnesota took a chance on Ricky Nolasco in the offseason after he pitched well down the stretch in 2013, but so far the Twins haven’t gotten the results they were hoping for.
The right-hander looks to avoid his third loss and a sixth straight defeat against the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday when red-hot Chris Colabello and the Twins try to take two of three at Tropicana Field.
Nolasco (1-2, 6.08 ERA) hasn’t won more than 13 games in a season since 2010, but he went 8-3 with a 3.52 ERA in 16 appearances for the Los Angeles Dodgers after they acquired him in a mid-season trade.
The Twins (10-10) signed him to a four-year, $49 million deal in December with the hopes that he could provide a steady presence at the front end of the rotation. Instead, the opening day starter has been knocked around in three of his four outings.
Although he allowed one run over eight innings to win his only home start, Nolasco has gone 0-2 with an 8.62 ERA in three road outings. He surrendered five runs and a season-high 11 hits over 5 2-3 frames in Friday’s 5-0 loss at Kansas City.
"It’s not tough," Nolasco said. "You just have to go out and keep making pitches."
Nolasco certainly hasn’t done much to help a Minnesota rotation that has a 6.16 ERA over its last seven games and owns an AL-worst 5.74 mark on the season. He might have a tough time turning it around since he’s posted a 9.82 ERA while losing five consecutive starts versus Tampa Bay (10-11).
Logan Forsythe, Matt Joyce and Ben Zobrist have gone a combined 10 for 17 with three home runs and eight RBIs when facing Nolasco since 2010. However, they went 1 for 10 Wednesday as Minnesota evened the series with a 6-4 victory in 12 innings.
Colabello came up big again for the Twins with his second homer of the series before delivering a go-ahead two-run single in the 12th. The right fielder has batted .441 with 12 RBIs over an eight-game hitting streak.
He also finished with four RBIs, raising his league-leading total to 26 while matching the franchise record for April that Kirby Puckett set in 1994.
"He’s made some adjustments and we’ll see how long he can keep it going, but he’s putting a lot of great swings out there, driving the baseball," manager Ron Gardenhire said.
Tampa Bay’s Erik Bedard (0-0, 6.35), who was called up last week to work out of the bullpen, will get another start after an oblique injury to Alex Cobb thinned the rotation.
The veteran left-hander allowed four runs over just 3 2-3 innings in Friday’s 11-5 home win over the New York Yankees. He’s pitched well against the Twins, going 2-0 with a 2.76 ERA in his last six starts dating to his time with Seattle.
The Rays’ Desmond Jennings has gone 5 for 10 in the series after sitting out three games with a groin injury.
Tampa Bay has been all or nothing offensively during a 3-6 stretch, totaling 34 runs with six homers in wins and only 12 runs with three homers in the losses.