- Tom Haberstroh, ESPN Staff Writer
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Nolasco's fastball: lost and found
It's rare to see an Opening Day starter demoted to the minors before the end of May, but in Ricky Nolasco's case, it was justified. While Nolasco's secondary pitches were sound, the 26-year-old's fastball was getting crushed to the tune of a .435 batting average against in his first nine starts, and his ERA stood at 9.07 after a 15-2 loss to the Rays on May 22. Something clicked in the minors, though, and Nolasco's fastball is back to 2008 levels of success. Over his past three starts, his fastball has generated an above-average 17 percent swing-and-miss rate, and hitters are chasing it out of the strike zone. Furthermore, opponents' batting average against the heat was a more respectable .289. After he silenced the Red Sox bats last week, expect Nolasco to continue using his fastball more effectively against the Orioles lineup Wednesday night.
Ricky Nolasco's fastball breakdown
2008: .270 BAA, 18 percent miss percentage, 21 percent chase percentage.
First 9 starts of 2009: .435 BAA, 13 percent miss percentage, 21 percent chase percentage.
Past 3 starts of 2009: .289 BAA, 17 percent miss percentage, 28 percent chase percentage.
Expect more good things from Morrow
In all likelihood, Brandon Morrow won't pitch long enough into games to net many wins right now, but the Mariners' top prospect has been throwing the ball well since he returned to the rotation. On Wednesday night, the 24-year-old faces the San Diego Padres in a rematch, this time at Safeco Field. In his last start, Morrow struck out six Padres while walking just one in a four-inning, two-earned-run effort. Two promising signs from this outing: He maintained the velocity his fastball had when he was a reliever, and he commanded his slider with pinpoint accuracy. The youngster needs to work the inside of the plate more, as 75 percent of his pitches were in the middle-to-outside portions in his last start. Mixed leaguers should keep an eye on how he handles the increased pitch count, but AL-only leaguers should feel confident having him active.
1dMarc Stein and Ramona Shelburne