Dodger Player Profile: A First Look at Ricky Nolasco

Ricky Nolasco will make his Dodgers debut tonight at Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona against the Arizona Diamondbacks. The right-hander comes home to Los Angeles after 7 1/2 seasons with the Miami Marlins. (Image source: http://i2.cdn.turner.com/si/dam/assets/130708162314-ricky-nolasco-1-single-image-cut.jpg)

Ricky Nolasco was born Carlos Enrique Nolasco on December 13th, 1982 in Corona, California, about an hour’s drive from Dodger Stadium, and was raised about 20 miles to the north in Rialto.  A Dodger fan from a young age, Ricky saw his share of great moments at Dodger Stadium growing up, including a shining gem in the midst of what was in many ways a regrettable 1992 season: Kevin Gross’s no-hitter on August 17th, 1992.

Nolasco played his high school ball at Rialto High School where he was a standout, and found himself drafted in the 4th round straight out of high school in 2001 by the Chicago Cubs organization.

Nolasco would spend 4 years working his way through the Cubs organization before a 2005 trade landed him with the Marlins.  The player that Nolasco was traded for also wound up having Dodger ties: Juan Pierre would later sign a five year deal with the Dodgers and have a good amount of success in L.A. before being traded back to the Windy City in 2010 in a deal that landed the speedy Pierre with the White Sox.  The Marlins also acquired Sergio Mitre and Renyel Pinto in the trade that landed them Nolasco.

Ricky Nolasco would make his debut for the Marlins as a middle reliever on April 5th, 2006, throwing three scoreless innings of relief for the Marlins that day.  Nolasco wouldn’t stay in the bullpen for long, however, cracking into the Marlins’ starting rotation by mid-season.  Nolasco started 22 of the 35 games he pitched his rookie season, going a break-even 11-11 with a 4.82 ERA.

Nolasco’s first sign of sustained success was during the 2008 season.  Nolasco established himself as the staff ace in Miami, going 15-8 with a 3.52 ERA.  Nolasco would strike out 186 batters in 212 1/3 innings pitched that season.  His most notable game that year was a two hit shutout of the San Francisco Giants on August 19th at AT&T Park.  Nolasco struck out 11 batters and walked only one in the Marlins’ 6-0 victory that day.

Nolasco has struck out as many as 16 batters in one game in his career.   On September 30th, 2009, Nolasco was downright filthy, striking out 16 Atlanta Braves in 7 2/3 innings while giving up 2 runs on 4 hits with 2 walks allowed.

Ricky Nolasco leaves the Marlins with a very impressive resume.  His 1,001 strikeouts are the highest total by any Marlins pitcher in the history of the franchise, as are his 81 wins.

Nolasco has four pitches that he relies on to get batters out.  Nolasco’s bread-and-butter pitch for years was a four seam fastball, though he has lost a couple miles on hour off his top speed and now tops out around 91-92 miles an hour.  As Nolasco’s fastball has lost velocity, he has improved the sharpness of his sinking pitch, a split-finger fastball that induces a lot of ground ball outs.  As Nolasco’s fastball velocity has dipped, he has relied more heavily on this pitch and it appears to be contributing to his success this season, his best since 2008 ERA-wise, while he has posted a 3.85 ERA, more than half a run below his career average.  Nolasco also mixes a hard slider and a curveball into his repertoire to keep opposing hitters off balance.  Though Nolasco’s record stands at 5-8 this season, a large part of that can be attributed to a light-hitting Marlins offense that was depleted by fire sale trades made by embattled owner Jeffrey Loria this past off-season.

As he departs Miami as the franchise’s winningest pitcher, he also gives them three young arms to develop and move into their Major League pitching staff in the coming seasons.  Steven Ames, Josh Wall and Angel Sanchez found themselves in the Marlins organization after the trade.  Much like the Pierre trade that landed the Marlins young arms Nolasco and Mitre who both had success at the Major League level, the Marlins are hoping that the trio of pitching prospects they’ve acquired will help them to rebuild their pitching staff for the years to come.

Nolasco’s career now brings him home to Los Angeles, and the 30 year old right hander couldn’t be happier.  Nolasco posted the following to his Twitter feed after the trade was announced.

ricky nolasco@RNolasco47 6 Jul

So pumped to wear Dodger Blue! Can’t wait! #godoyers #dreamcometrue #rialtoraised

ricky nolasco@RNolasco47 7 Jul

Officially heading to the airport. Dodger era has begun. Cant wait to meet my new teamates. Good luck today @Dodgers in SF! #stoked #Blessed

ricky nolasco@RNolasco47 7 Jul

Thank you all Dodger fans showing me mad love and welcoming me! Feels unreal still. Thx all support from the roots too #rialto #IE #909

Nolasco is clearly excited to be heading home to Southern California, and Dodger fans have been enthusiastic to welcome the right-handed started through social media.  He’ll make his Dodgers debut tonight in Phoenix at Chase Field, and the team hopes that the addition of his arm to the starting rotation will help the Dodgers close the remainder of the 3 1/2 game gap that stands between them and the first place Arizona Diamondbacks.  In his only previous outing against the Diamondbacks this season, Nolasco pitched 8 innings of one-run ball.  He’ll look to match that sort of performance tonight against Ian Kennedy.

First publicly available photo of Ricky Nolasco (possibly Photoshopped?) in Dodger gear. He’ll make his Dodger debut tonight in Arizona against the Diamondbacks. (Image Source: Major League Baseball at http://mlb.mlb.com/images/players/525×330/alt/445060.jpg)
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