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.”
BOSTON — The Twins will recall Yohan Pino from Triple-A Rochester to start against the White Sox on Thursday, with fellow right-hander Samuel Deduno heading to the bullpen. A corresponding roster move will come on Thursday.
Pino, 30, has excelled with Rochester this year, going 9-1 with a 1.92 ERA while making seven starts and seven relief appearances. The 6-foot-2 right-hander also has struck out 61 and walked 16 in 61 innings.
He rejoined the Twins organization this year after being traded to Cleveland for right-hander Carl Pavano in 2009. He’ll be making his Major League debut after 10 seasons and 292 career appearances in the Minors. He’ll have to be added to the 40-man roster but the Twins can shift right-hander Mike Pelfrey to the 60-day disabled list to make room for him. The 25-man roster move is still unclear but is likely to be a pitcher sent out, as Twins manager Ron Gardenhire wants to keep a 12-man pitching staff.
Gardenhire said Pino isn’t overpowering, as his fastball averages just 87-88 mph, but possesses a strong curveball and was the most deserving of several candidates at Rochester, including top prospects Alex Meyer and Trevor May.
“He’s been lights out and has been pitching fantastic along with three or four other guys down there,” Gardenhire said. “He’s been throwing the ball well and doing everything they asked. He has a great ERA and the whole package. I think we could’ve had our choices down there and this who they decided to go with because he’s worked very hard.”
Deduno, meanwhile, had struggled over his last four outings with a 10.13 ERA and will head back to the bullpen where he began the season. He took the decision in stride, even though he prefers to be a starting pitcher.
“I’m happy to be here and in the bullpen,” Deduno said. “I’m going to my job. I have to keep my head up.”
TORONTO — With Kendrys Morales set to be the everyday designated hitter for the Twins moving forward, the club is deciding what to do with rookie catcher Josmil Pinto.
Pinto started 19 games at designated hitter as a way to get his bat into the lineup with Kurt Suzuki serving as the primary catcher this season. Suzuki made his 46th start behind the plate on Wednesday with right-hander Phil Hughes on the mound, while Pinto has made just 18 starts at catcher this year.
“With Hughes going, I really wanted Suzuki to catch Hughes,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “Pinto has been scuffling along with his throwing and all those things. We’re trying to do some work with him to get him straightened out a little bit. We talked to Suzuki about this and told him he might have to catch three this series until we get the kid straightened out.”
Pinto has had trouble defensively this year, as he’s yet to throw out an opposing base stealer in 16 attempts and also has made five errors. He’s also still working on his pitch calling and framing skills.
So the Twins could look to option him to Triple-A Rochester to get more consistent playing time and work on his defense. Triple-A catchers Eric Fryer and Chris Herrmann are both on the 40-man roster, and one of the two could be called up to replace Pinto.
Pinto, 25, also started off hot offensively but has cooled down since May 1. Some of his scuffles could come from a lack of consistent playing time but is hitting just .200/.227/.329 with two homers and seven RBIs in 23 games since May 1.
Gardenhire said a decision hasn’t been made on Pinto yet. But reading between the lines, it’s becoming more likely he’ll go down to Triple-A to continue his development.
“It’s all the things we’re talking about,” Gardenhire said. “We’re trying to figure out our route here. We’re trying to see how we can work him in and keep him developing, too. We’re working on it. The whole process.”
TORONTO — Right-hander Mike Pelfrey underwent surgery on Tuesday to clean up scar tissue in his right elbow that was causing pressure on his ulnar nerve, the Twins announced. The official term for the operation is right elbow ulnar nerve decompression surgery.
Pelfrey met with Dr. James Andrews for a second opinion on his elbow in Pensacola, Fla., on Monday, and Dr. Andrews performed the surgery on Tuesday. He’s expected to be out two to four months.
Pelfrey had Tommy John surgery on his right elbow on May 1, 2012, which caused him to miss the rest of that season and led to the scar tissue buildup in his elbow that necessitated Tuesday’s operation. But his ulnar collateral ligament is fine, as the injury was related to the ulnar nerve.
Pelfrey began to feel numbness in his fingers during Spring Training but never notified the training staff, as it was something he’d dealt with earlier in his career without any issues.
He went on to post a 7.99 ERA in five starts with diminished velocity before going on the 15-day disabled list with a groin strain on May 2. He made two rehab starts with Triple-A Rochester before he began to feel what he thought was shoulder pain but turned out to be related to the ulnar nerve in his elbow after he had both his shoulder and elbow checked out by Twins doctors in late May.
Pelfrey, 30, posted a 5.19 ERA in 29 starts in his return from Tommy John surgery last year, and the Twins were hopeful he’d bounce back this season after being another year removed from the surgery. He signed a two-year, $11 million deal in the offseason to remain in Minnesota.
TORONTO — In a surprise move, Kendrys Morales made his Twins debut on Monday, batting sixth and starting at designated hitter against the Blue Jays.
Morales, who officially joined the Twins on Sunday after signing a one-year, $12 million prorated contract, was expected to need roughly a week to get ready before playing in his first game.
Morales hasn’t played since last September, but called bullpen coach Bobby Cuellar on Sunday night and asked him to tell Twins manager Ron Gardenhire he was ready to play on Monday.
“He said he’s been sitting for four months and he thought about it and watched the game last night so he wants to play,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “I got no problem with that. I just told me he has to tell me how he’s feeling out there.”
Gardenhire said it’ll be up to Morales to determine how much he’ll play in his first week with the club, as he’s still trying to knock off some rust. His first start came against knuckleballer R.A. Dickey but Gardenhire said that didn’t factor into the decision for Morales to start on Monday.
“I don’t know if it’s easier to come back and hit against a knuckleballer or against a guy throwing 95 [mph],” Gardenhire said. “I’ve never seen this before with a guy sitting out this long. But he’s been swinging out there so it’s not like he’s swinging cold turkey or coming out of a hospital bed.”
Morales, who turns 31 on June 20, worked out six days a week at agent Scott Boras’ training facility in Miami to stay sharp. He faced live pitching there, including facing free-agent right-hander Joel Pineiro, according to Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony. Antony was also on board with the decision to put Morales right into the lineup.
“To me, the only way to knock off the rust is to play,” Antony said. “Maybe he struggles or doesn’t give us much for a week but then he takes off and does fine. You can wait a week and let him take BP but there’s nothing really to simulate a real game. So I think it’s great he wants to play.”
MINNEAPOLIS — The Twins reached an agreement with free-agent slugger Kendrys Morales on Saturday, according to a Major League source familiar with the negotiations. The deal is a one-year, $12 million prorated contract worth roughly $7.6 million.
The Twins, however, have not confirmed the deal and an official announcement hasn’t been made. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports was the first to report it.
Morales, 30, was a free agent over the offseason but did not sign with a team after declining a qualifying offer from the Mariners. If another team signed him, they would’ve lost a pick in the First-Year Player Draft but with the Draft already underway, the Twins won’t lose a pick for signing Morales.
The signing comes as a surprise, as the Twins were never heavily linked to the Cuban-born slugger. But they wanted to add power bat to their offense, and Morales certainly brings that.
The switch-hitter batted .277/.336/.449 with 23 homers, 34 doubles and 80 RBIs with the Mariners last year. He played just 31 games at first base while serving as designated hitter in 121 games. The Twins have Joe Mauer at first base so Morales is again expected to see a bulk of his time at DH.
Morales, who also played with the Angels from 2006-2012, is a career .280/.333/.480 hitter with 102 homers, 130 doubles and 165 RBIs in 620 games.
MINNEAPOLIS — The Twins went with a position player with the No. 5 overall pick in Thursday’s First-Year Player Draft, selecting highly athletic shortstop Nick Gordon from Olympia High School in Orlando.
Gordon, the son of former All-Star closer Tom Gordon and the brother of Dodgers second baseman Dee Gordon, had been linked to Minnesota leading up to the Draft, and the Twins got their man with the fifth overall selection. The Twins have $3.85 million available for their first pick.
The Draft continues on Friday with Rounds 3-10. The MLB.com pregame show begins at 12:30p ET, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 3-10 beginning at 1p ET.
Gordon, ranked as the No. 5 overall Draft prospect by MLB.com, is the consensus top infielder in the Draft, and is expected to remain at shortstop where’s he’s regarded as a plus defender.
Gordon’s speed, arm and defense all rate as plus tools, and also boasts above-average bat speed and strong wrists at the plate, giving him surprising power from his 6-foot-2, 170-pound frame. The 18-year-old added 15 pounds of muscle over the last year, and will need to continue to add strength as he advances through the Minor Leagues.
Gordon, who hits from the left side but throws right-handed, is also regarded as a top prospect as a pitcher with a fastball in the low-90s and a good curveball. But much like MLB.com’s No. 1 overall prospect Byron Buxton, who was also a dominant high school pitcher, the Twins are inclined to keep Gordon as a position player.
Gordon, who is committed to play baseball at Florida State, hit .494 with a .576 on-base percentage in 27 games his senior year at Olympia High School en route to being named Gatorade Florida Baseball Player of the year for a second straight season. He hit five homers, 10 doubles and two triples with 27 RBIs and 28 runs scored. He also stole 13 bases.
Gordon was also named Gatorade Florida Baseball Player of the Year his junior year after hitting .505 with two homers and 30 RBIs, while also going 5-1 with five saves, a 0.78 ERA and 44 strikeouts in 35 2/3 innings pitched.
NEW YORK — Right-hander Mike Pelfrey had his throwing shoulder and elbow examined in Minnesota on Friday, and irritation was found in his ulnar nerve in his elbow but both his elbow and shoulder were structurally sound.
Pelfrey, who is on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right groin, complained of shoulder soreness after his most recent rehab start with Triple-A Rochester. So he flew to the Twin Cities to get both his shoulder and elbow examined to determine the problem.
The shoulder was fine but an MRI exam on his elbow found some nerve irritation and scar tissue in his elbow. Pelfrey will take anti-inflammatories for now but is expected to see Dr. James Andrews for a second opinion. Dr. Andrews performed Pelfrey’s Tommy John surgery on his elbow in May of 2012.
“They looked at his shoulder and it looked great so they looked at this elbow and there was a little bit of irritation in the ulnar nerve, which was transposed when he had the surgery,” Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony said. “They said that’s not abnormal or a major thing. They’re hoping to treat it with anti-inflammatories.”
Pelfrey had seen his velocity decrease this season, and the Twins are hopeful they’ve now found the root of his problem. He’d also been dealing with some tingling in his fingers, which is something he felt before the Tommy John surgery and is believed to be related to the nerve issue in his elbow.
“Hopefully we’re getting to the bottom of it with him,” Antony said. “We’re going to try to treat it with anti-inflammatories and if he needs surgery, it’ll be very minor and just clean up some scar tissue.”
MINNEAPOLIS — Twins manager Ron Gardenhire had plenty to say about Joe Mauer while speaking to the media before Thursday’s game against the Rangers.
Mauer is off to an uncharacteristically slow start, and was the subject of boos on Wednesday, when he failed to come through with a runner at third base with two outs in the seventh in Minnesota’s eventual 1-0 loss.
Here’s what Gardenhire had to say about Mauer, who entered Thursday hitting .277/.356/.356 with two homers and six doubles in 45 games this season:
He’s hitting a lot of balls hard. The way they’re playing him and pitching him If he were in Boston, he’d be hitting .400. I mean, how many rockets he’s hit out to left field, deep. He’d be pounding that wall. But he’s not in Boston, and they’re playing him oppo. He’s ripping balls that way, and you just go through it. I don’t know if you start counting all the balls that this guy hits on the button. I can promise you it’s as many as anybody in the league. He hits it on the barrel of the bat.
(On the expectations he faces)
The expectations are very high for him. People get frustrated. I just don’t want Joe to get frustrated. I know he is a little bit right now, because he doesn’t have the results that he wants. But I don’t want to put any more pressure on the guy. He goes out and plays, and he gets after it pretty good and he works hard. He’s got a great swing. No one wants to win more than that guy. I’m not going to bench him. I’m going to just leave him in there.
(Does he look more frustrated?)
He’s always shown that side of him (frustration), where he goes into a game and hits some balls right at people, or has a bad at-bat against a guy – which, believe it or not, he does every once in a while – a guy throws some pitches that are pretty good. But he’s always done that (get frustrated). You just don’t see it. In the dugout, a lot of things happen that you guys don’t see. Yeah, he can get pretty tense. Believe me, he can.
(Is he being more selective?)
He’s actually jumped on some more first pitches, trying to ambush people a little bit. Trying different things. He wants to do well. He wants to win. He wants to do all those things and help the team, and he’s trying to figure out different ways to do it. Look to jerk a ball early in the count, all those things. He’s been doing that. More this year than he has in the past. But he’s still not afraid to take pitches, and he’s one of the best hitters in the game as far as I’m concerned with two strikes. It’s incredible how much solid contact the guy makes with two strikes. He can do those things that other people can’t.
I know he’s a little flustered. Last night was disappointing, we lose one-nothing. He had chances, along with a few other guys. You know what? He takes a lot of pride with that stuff.
(Does he need to change his approach to stop hitting where they’re playing him in left?)
I don’t think you can guide ‘em. All you can do is put a good swing on ‘em and barrel it. That’s what he has to continue doing, just barrel the baseball. You start trying to guide it and do this and that, you start getting into trouble doing something you’re not used to. He’s made adjustments.
But right now, I don’t know how many times he’s lined out to left field. He’s hit balls right down the left field line on the line and you’ve got an outfielder standing there. That’s the way they’re playing it, and those used to be hits, so… you know, with all the videos, all the systems, these charts that people throw out there, people are playing him a little bit differently. For him to say, ‘Well, I’m gonna quit hitting it there,’ I don’t know about that. I’d keep hitting it on the screws and take my chances. And that’s what he does. He hits it hard.
The kid can hit. And you know what? I think it’s an eye-opener when we say, ‘Joe Mauer is struggling a little bit.’ It’s an eye-opener for everybody because you’re just not used to seeing that or hearing that. It’s really hard to fathom for him because he’s such a good hitter.
(On the boos in seventh inning)
It’s part of the game for everybody. I know it’s not been a big part for Joe around here, but it’s part of the game. Fans are frustrated. They show it. It’s always been part of the game. I think for Joe, he hears it, believe me. We all hear it. You know what? People have the right to do whatever they want to do when they come in this ballpark. I just hope that he doesn’t put more pressure on himself. I want him to just keep swinging, and he’ll be fine.
Everybody has a right to go out there and make their statements. You can’t control that stuff. Let me tell you what: If he played in cities like where I played [New York], it’s tougher than it is here. We’ve got pretty good fans. They get fired up a little bit, and you guys read it, and you hear it from all your side of it. But it’s still pretty mild compared to most places.