There are no mulligans in baseball, but if not for a few tough starts, Ricky Nolasco would rank among the National League’s ERA leaders. Removing three games from Nolasco’s season slate would drop his ERA by more than a run.
“Sometimes it’s just a slight adjustment from maybe a hitter or two,” manager Jack McKeon said.
Nolasco, who is 6-7 with a 4.08 ERA, is coming off what he described as “probably the worst start of my career,” when he allowed nine runs in 1 1/3 innings against the Padres on Wednesday. But before Wednesday’s drubbing, Nolasco was having arguably the best stretch of his career. In his four prior starts, Nolasco allowed just two earned runs over 32 innings.
“He’s got the potential to be a 20-game winner,” McKeon said. “He’s got the stuff.”
Without Wednesday’s start and two others — May 29, when he allowed eight runs in five innings against the Dodgers, and a three-inning, five-run outing against the Diamondbacks on June 13 — Nolasco’s ERA would be a paltry 2.80.
“I look at [Nolasco] a little bit like [Brad] Penny — How bad do you want to be a 20-game winner?” McKeon said. “Do you want to be content with winning 14 and losing 10? But he’s better than that.”
McKeon’s memory is both impressive and intriguing. In 2003, Penny’s fourth season in the big leagues and the year McKeon took over for Jeff Torborg, Penny was 14-10. In 2010, Nolasco’s fourth full major-league season, he posted a 14-9 record. Penny went on to lead the NL in wins in 2006 with 16.
The Marlins recalled right-handed reliever Jose Ceda from Triple A New Orleans before Sunday’s game to take Chris Volstad’s spot on the 25-man roster.
Ceda, 24, made three appearances for Florida earlier this year, giving up six earned runs on six hits in 4 1/3 innings while walking four and striking out seven. The Marlins optioned hard-throwing righty when they acquired Mike Cameron from Boston in early July.
“We had him here and he didn’t get too many opportunities,” McKeon said. “He’s got a good arm. If he throws strikes, he’ll be alright. I hope to get him a little work if we can. If he would’ve been here a couple of days ago he would’ve gotten plenty of work. We would’ve tested him.”
Ceda, who was 2-1 with a 1.26 ERA and 23 saves for New Orleans, was originally acquired in 2008 in a trade for closer Kevin Gregg. Ceda recorded 48 strikeouts in 35 2/3 innings with the Zephyrs.
McKeon said he was unsure how long Ceda would spend with Florida. The team needs a starting pitcher on Thursday against Washington and Ceda might not have to be sent down if the team promotes a starter.
“It depends on what we do for a starter,” McKeon said. “He could be here for awhile and back, or he could be here and someone else goes.”