Nuno's 'rubber arm' a boon for Mariners
SEATTLE -- Vidal Nuno stood at his Safeco Field locker on the final day of the season after a six-inning, two-run outing for the Mariners, describing the ups and downs of a campaign that yielded him just one win.
It was also a year in which the 28-year-old left-hander proved his value, logging much-needed innings for a weary Seattle pitching staff after being traded to the Mariners from the Diamondbacks with Mark Trumbo in June.
Nuno notched a career-high 35 appearances as well as a 3.74 ERA -- his lowest since his five-game rookie campaign in 2013. In his second complete Major League season, Nuno held his own.
"Hey, 48th round," Nuno said with a smile and a shrug, reflecting on how far he has come from his 1445th overall selection by the Indians out of Baker University in Baldwin City, Kan., in 2009.
Nuno didn't flash devastating stuff over his 74 2/3 innings with the Mariners, but provided versatility as his greatest asset, pitching as a starter, a late-inning relief pitcher and a long reliever in Seattle. He managed stretches of success without the luxury of a set routine, frequently bouncing between turns in the rotation and stints in the bullpen.
"Everything just plays a part, whether it's a bullpen or starting or getting a chance every week," Nuno said. "It's about getting those innings in and producing. To stay up here, you gotta produce, so that was my main goal was just coming in here and staying healthy, being competitive and when I get the ball, it's just don't let anyone score."
That health proved valuable for the Mariners. Left-hander James Paxton battled finger injuries for much of the season, Hisashi Iwakuma was held to just 20 starts with an early-season lat injury and Taijuan Walker and Felix Hernandez were both shut down late in the year. But Nuno's arm was a rare non-issue for former Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon, who said the left-hander has a "rubber arm."
"The thought of having a guy that's a swing guy that can start, go in the bullpen, pitch in the eighth, pitch in the fifth, sixth, whatever you need him to do, or go out and give you a start, from a manager's standpoint, it's a security blanket," McClendon said before his dismissal a week after the season ended. "We had Walker down, Felix down, Paxton down, and where we'd have been without this guy, I'm not sure. Is there a nuthouse around the corner? I'd probably be in that nuthouse. He was great for us."
Nuno will look to continue his momentum with the Tigres de Aragua in the Venezuelan Winter League, where he'll take regular turns as a starter before returning Nov. 24. It will be an opportunity to log extra innings, as well as return to the country where he paved his path to the Major Leagues in 2012.
"It's another road trip, another journey, so I'm excited and thrilled to be having the pleasure of going there and pitching," Nuno said. "Whenever they want me to pitch, I'll be ready."
Nuno was outstanding in his debut for the Tigres last week, throwing six scoreless innings with four hits, one walk and four strikeouts in a 6-2 win over Zulia.