Slightly rusty Nolasco earns win in return
MINNEAPOLIS -- After missing nearly a month with inflammation in his right elbow, Ricky Nolasco was back on the mound on Saturday, and although he showed some signs of rust, he pitched well enough to keep Minnesota in the game and ultimately picked up the win in the Twins' 5-3 victory over the White Sox.
Nolasco, who made just one start before hitting the 15-day disabled list, allowed three runs on eight hits over five innings, but looked better as the day went along. He was lifted for pitch-count reasons after throwing 76, and said the biggest takeaway from his outing is that he felt healthy.
"I felt good," said Nolasco, who earned his first win since Sept. 27, 2014. "It was a huge sigh of relief to throw pain-free. That was the most important thing. It was a battle. I was pretty anxious to get out there but thought I settled down and got of a few jams there. But a couple two-out hits cost me a couple runs."
Nolasco gave up a pair of runs in the second on an RBI groundout by Micah Johnson and a two-out RBI single from J.B. Shuck. The third run he allowed also came with two outs, on an RBI single from Avisail Garcia in the third. But he settled down from there and finished his outing with a strikeout of Jose Abreu.
"It was kind of a grind today," manager Paul Molitor said. "We got Ricky back out there after a long layoff. He showed a little sign of rust but was able to make some good pitches at times. He had trouble with his curveball against right-handers with pitcher's counts, but he got us through five."
Nolasco said his changeup wasn't quite there and that he found himself rushing his delivery early in his outing. But he said those issues are correctable and that his stuff will get better once he shakes off the rust.
After he exited, the bullpen held it down, with Aaron Thompson, Blaine Boyer, Brian Duensing, Michael Tonkin and Glen Perkins combining to throw four scoreless frames.
"The bullpen was big," Molitor said. "We kind of had to mix and match there at the end, but it worked out."
With the win, the Twins improved to .500 for the first time this season. They started the year with a 1-6 record but are now at 12-12. It's their first time at .500 since May 24, 2014, when they were 23-23.
"We crept back to .500 after our rough start, so hopefully we can build on it from there," Molitor said. "The biggest thing is we were able to hold the fort down after things looked pretty miserable in the beginning. We weren't hitting, we weren't pitching, we weren't playing defense. But thankfully, we were able to nip that in the bud. You start winning games, and that can change the mind-set of your team."