SEATTLE — Right-hander Ricky Nolasco met with Twins manager Ron Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson on Monday, and admitted he’s been pitching through elbow discomfort this season.
Nolasco is scheduled to fly back to Minnesota on Monday night as a result, and will be examined by team physician Dr. John Steubs on Tuesday. It was the first time Nolasco had told anyone in the organization that he’s had elbow issues this year.
“After some coaxing, he finally admitted he’s been struggling since Spring Training with a bit of a sore elbow,” Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony said. “He said he can’t get loose more than anything. Said it gets tight. Some days it’s better than others. But yesterday, he had a real difficult time getting loose, so we called it a day after two innings. And we talked to him today and he admitted something was going on so we’ll get him checked out.”
Nolasco struggled Sunday, giving up six runs on seven hits over a season-low two innings in a loss to the Yankees to see his ERA rise to 5.90 on the year. The Twins have been worried about his velocity, as it’s ticked downward every month, according to data at BrooksBaseball.net.
Nolasco’s four-seam fastball averaged 92.39 mph in March, 91.79 mph in April, 91.60 mph in May, 90.97 mph in June and 90.55 mph in July. His four-seam velocity was a season-worst 89.96 mph in his start on Sunday.
“His velocity has been down,” Antony said. “He hasn’t been as effective with his pitches. He hasn’t had the command as he’s had. Physically, everything he’s done isn’t what the reports we had on him from last year.”
Nolasco’s troubles have come in the first season of a four-year, $49 million deal signed in the offseason. He had a career 4.37 ERA entering this year, including a 3.70 ERA last year with the Marlins and Dodgers.
“We know what we brought here — we brought over a very good pitcher with a great track record,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He finally admitted it. I like the old school. I like a guy who wants to pitch through some pain. But it’s obviously the results aren’t what we want and yesterday he didn’t have much, at all.”
MINNEAPOLIS — First baseman Joe Mauer left Tuesday’s game against the Royals in the fifth inning after straining his right oblique on a swing on a double in the bottom of the fourth. He’ll be re-evaluated on Wednesday.
With the bases loaded and one out, Mauer laced a two-run double to left field to give the Twins a four-run lead but grabbed at the oblique upon reaching second. He remained in the game despite a visit from manager Ron Gardenhire and trainer Tony Leo, and was stranded at second base.
But Mauer was removed from the game in the top of the fifth, with Parmelee moving from left field to first base. Josh Willingham took over in left field.
“I’ve been kind of battling this area for about a week or so or maybe a little more,” Mauer said. “I’ve been getting stiff but I’ve been getting it loose and everything has been fine. But today on that one swing on the ball down the line it felt like somebody hit me pretty hard right there.”
Mauer added he’s not sure how much time he’ll miss until he’s looked at again on Wednesday, but is hopeful he’ll be able to avoid the 15-day disabled list. But he did admit it’s a painful injury and one he hasn’t dealt with before so a trip to the DL can’t be ruled out just yet.
“I’ve never had this happen before,” Mauer said. “I hope it’s a lot sooner than what guys in the past have had.”
The double extended Mauer’s season-long hit streak to 12 games. He is hitting .362 with six doubles and 12 RBIs over that stretch to improve his slash line to .271/.342/.353 in 76 games.
“It’s frustrating,” Mauer said. “I’ve been feeling pretty good and getting some results. So it’s bad timing.”